Moscow, May 15 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russia Wednesday lodged an official protest with the US ambassador over an embassy official who Moscow says is an undercover CIA officer.
US ambassador Michael McFaul visited the Russian foreign ministry Wednesday amid reports that a US diplomat suspected of trying to recruit a Russian security services agent had been detained.
McFaul was received by Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov. The ambassador left about an hour later without talking to reporters.
The Russian ministry said Moscow had lodged an official protest with the US over the embassy employee, adding the alleged spy, Ryan Christopher Fogle, must leave the country as soon as possible.
In Washington, US officials have remained tight-lipped over the arrest of diplomat Fogle, accused of trying to recruit an agent for the CIA.
“We can confirm that an officer at the US embassy in Moscow was detained briefly and was released. We’ve … no further comment,” State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said.
Fogle, a third secretary in the political department at the US embassy, was detained May 13 night as he allegedly attempted to recruit an officer from one of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
Russia quickly declared Fogle persona non grata.
The US spokesperson played down speculation that the diplomat’s arrest could put a damper on recent joint efforts by the US and Russia to organise an international conference on Syria.
According to FSB, the diplomat was found to be in possession of “special technical devices, written instructions for the Russian citizen being recruited, a large sum of cash and means of changing his appearance”.
Fogle purportedly offered the Russian officer up to $1 million a year for his cooperation, according to a letter he was carrying that was released by FSB.
Fogle was taken to FSB and, after “necessary procedures” were completed, handed over to US embassy officials.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have been strained during US ambassador Michael McFaul’s tenure, with bones of contention including US criticism of Russia’s human rights record.
The FSB released photographs of the diplomat’s detention, including pictures of the man identified as Fogle, his IDs, two floppy wigs, three pairs of glasses, a map of Moscow and a folding knife.