Russia detains US embassy employee for ‘trying to recruit spy’

By Reuters in Moscow and

Ryan Fogle sought to recruit Russian intelligence officer to work for CIA, Russian security service says. Russia has detained a US citizen accused of trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer to work for the CIA, a throwback to the cold war era that risks upsetting efforts to improve relations.

The announcement came at an awkward time, just days after a visit by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, during which Washington and Moscow agreed to try to bring the warring sides in Syria together for an international peace conference.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) said Ryan Fogle, a third secretary at the US embassy in Moscow, had been detained overnight carrying “special technical equipment”, a disguise, a large sum of money and instructions for recruiting his target. The Russian foreign ministry said it had summoned the US ambassador, Michael McFaul, over the case and a Russian television station published photographs which it said showed Fogle being detained, apparently wearing a blond wig.

The FSB, a successor of the Soviet-era KGB, said Fogle worked for the CIA and had been handed over to embassy officials at some point after his detention. Diplomats accused of espionage are usually expelled or withdrawn.

“On the night of 13-14 May, a staff employee of the CIA, Ryan Christopher Fogle … was detained by counter-espionage organs of the Russian FSB while attempting to recruit an employee of one of the Russian special services,” the FSB said. “Recently American intelligence has made multiple attempts to recruit employees of Russian law enforcement organs and special agencies, which have been detected and monitored by Russian FSB counter-intelligence,” it said in a statement.

The embassy declined to comment. McFaul, a former adviser to the US president, Barack Obama, was holding a live question-and-answer session on Twitter as news of the detention was announced, but refused to take questions on the matter.

Russia Today television published photographs on its website which it said showed Fogle being detained. In one photograph, a man lies face down on the ground with his arms held behind his back by another man, and is apparently wearing a blond wig. Another image showed two wigs, apparently found on him, as well as three pairs of glasses, a torch, a mobile phone and a compass. Also displayed was a wad of €500 (£425) notes and an envelope addressed to a “dear friend”.

The United States and Russia are still involved in espionage more than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war, and the FSB said such incidents were not unusual. The last major espionage scandal occurred in 2010, when 10 Russian agents including Anna Chapman were arrested in the United States and later deported in exchange for four Russians imprisoned on charges of spying for the west.

US-Russian relations turned colder after the former KGB spy Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency a year ago. The United States and Russia are also trying to improve counter-terrorism co-operation following the Boston Marathon bombings on 15 April. The FBI chief Robert Mueller visited Moscow for talks last week.

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