BBC News | 29/06/2010
Russian Govt. has denied that its men were involved in spying in the US. A foreign ministry official said the allegations were baseless and warned it’s nothing but a throwback to the cold war era. These baseless claims would put Obama’s attempts to reset ties with Russia in jeopardy the official added. The response from the Russian side comes a day after 10 people were arrested on charges of spying in the US. They are accused of conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of a foreign government. Such a crime carries up to 5 years imprisonment in the US. Nine of them are also accused of conspiracy to launder money. One more person named as "Christopher R Metsos" and believed to be the part of 10 people arrested on Monday, was arrested on Tuesday on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, police there said according to BBC. He was said to be arrested at Larnaca airport as he tried to leave for Budapest and was released on bail pending US extradition proceedings. The 11 were allegedly part of an operation acting as ordinary citizens, some of them living together as couples for years.
BBC quoted the Russian foreign ministry official as saying on Tuesday "In our opinion, such actions are groundless and pursue unseemly aims. In any case, it is highly deplorable that all of this is happening against the background of the reset in Russia-US ties announced by the US administration itself." Earlier, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was expecting an explanation over arrests. Mr Lavrov’s comments suggest that he thinks it is an attempt by someone or some group within the US power structure to undermine newly warming relations between Moscow and Washington, the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow reports. A senior govt. official was also quoted as saying it was unfortunate that such activity was taking place in the US but he wished it might not affect the momentum set for new relationship between the US and Russia.
The US Department of Justice says that eight of the suspects allegedly carried out "long-term, ‘deep-cover’ assignments" on US soil, working in civilian jobs so as not to arouse suspicion. They were allegedly trained by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) to infiltrate policy-making circles and collect information, according to papers filed in the US court for the southern district of New York. They were told to befriend US officials and send information using various methods to Russian government handlers. Investigators say some of the agents had been using false identities since the early 1990s, using codes and engaging in advanced computer operations, including posting apparently innocent pictures on the internet which contained hidden text. The group allegedly got close to a scientist involved in designing bunker-busting bombs and a top former intelligence official.