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Kremlin Says Spy Incident Does Not Help Relations With U.S.

  • RFE/RL

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin says an alleged attempt by a U.S. diplomat to recruit a Russian intelligence officer to work for the Central Intelligence Agency does not help efforts to improve U.S.-Russia relations.

Dmitry Peskov's comment was the first by a Kremlin official on the brief detention and expulsion of the diplomat.

U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul met with Russian officials at the Foreign Ministry on May 15, where he was summoned over the incident. He has refused to comment on the case.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the incident was never mentioned during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of an Arctic Council meeting in Kiruna, Sweden, on May 15.

"We did not discuss this subject. John Kerry did not bring it up," Lavrov said. "I also decided that it would be probably redundant to discuss it because it's all public now and everything is clear to everybody."

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) on May 14 identified the diplomat as Ryan Christopher Fogle and said he worked "undercover" as third secretary of the U.S. Embassy's political department.

The FSB said he was briefly detained overnight on May 14 for allegedly trying to recruit a Russian counterterrorism officer who specializes in the volatile Caucasus region in southern Russia. The region includes Chechnya, where the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects had their ethnic roots.

PHOTO GALLERY: Russia accuses U.S. Embassy employee of spying

Russian state TV showed video of the detention of the diplomat and displayed objects said to belong to him, including two wigs, a compass, a map of Moscow, a letter offering $1 million for cooperation, and instructions on how to contact the CIA by e-mail.

In comments to CNN, Robert Baer, a U.S. author and a former CIA case officer, said he was highly skeptical of the Russian account.

"This is not CIA tradecraft. The CIA does not carry around letters to perspective agents. They don't wear wigs. They don't use e-mail. They don't stand on corners waiting for a contact like this," Baer said.

Baer suggested the incident may have been staged by Russian security services.

"They arrest the guy in the worst circumstances to embarrass the CIA, the U.S. government. They get propaganda value out of this," Baer said. "If it had been a straight-up espionage thing, there is always the possibility of simply expelling the CIA operative quietly and no one would know about it. Clearly, the Russians want to get some mileage out of it."

Correspondents say Fogle's detention and expulsion appears to be the first case of an American diplomat in Russia publicly accused of spying in about a decade.

Based on reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS