US nets 10 suspected Russian spies
Russia yesterday said US allegations that it had broken up a major Russian spy ring just days after President Dmitry Medvedev met Barack Obama in Washington were baseless and improper.
US authorities said on Monday they had arrested 10 suspected spies who had recruited political sources and gathered information for the Russian government.
"Such actions are baseless and improper," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "We do not understand what prompted the US Justice Department to make a public statement in the spirit of Cold War espionage."
"We deeply regret that all of this has happened against the background of the relations reset declared by the US administration," it said.
US authorities have charged 11 individuals with carrying out deep-cover work in the United States to recruit political sources and gather information for the Russian government.
The individuals were accused of collecting information ranging from research programmes on small-yield, high-penetration nuclear warheads, the global gold market and trying to obtain background on people who applied for jobs at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to criminal complaints filed in a US federal court.
The Justice Department accused them of operating under orders of Russia's SVR agency as "illegals"; the term applied in the intelligence world to agents infiltrated to live and operate under false identities, rather than officers who use diplomatic cover or other legitimate cover.
Authorities said 10 of them were arrested on Sunday in Boston, New York, New Jersey and Virginia on charges including conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation and money laundering.
Moscow has repeatedly accused Western powers of maintaining spying operations against Russia despite the end of the Cold War. Western powers also complain of Russian activity, especially in the commercial and scientific area.