By Julian Pecquet - 05/14/13 09:38 PM EDT
Russia on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of a U.S. diplomat accused of being a CIA spy.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on its website that Ryan Fogle, an entry-level third secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, had been declared “persona non grata,” and that his “early departure” was requested.
The ministry statement went on to say that the incident could harm U.S.-Russian relations just as the two countries are cooperating on a peace summit between the Assad regime and the Syrian rebels.
Fogle was arrested overnight and turned over to the U.S. Embassy after Russian counterintelligence said he was apprehended with a large sum of cash, a disguise wig and instructions aimed at recruiting a Russian secret service expert specializing in the Caucasus, where the Boston bombing suspects are from. The Russian statement called Fogle “career CIA” and said he was working under “cover” at the embassy; his arrest, the statement said, “does not just expose a foreign agent who was caught red-handed, but also raises serious questions for the American side.”
The Federal Security Service — the successor to the Cold War-era KGB — also displayed a typewritten letter, signed “Your friends,” that allegedly instructed potential recruits on how to open a Gmail account for communications with the their handlers. The letter offered recruits $100,000 to discuss “your experience, expertise and cooperation” and up to $1 million a year for longer-term cooperation.
The State Department declined to deny that Fogle was a spy when asked point-blank.
“All that I can confirm for you is that a member of our mission was briefly detained,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said at his daily briefing.
The arrest takes place as tensions between the United States and Russia are continuing to simmer despite President Obama's desire to “reset” relations between the two countries. While Fogle's arrest is the first public arrest of a purported U.S. spy since the end of the Soviet era, Russia expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development last year, accusing it of fomenting political unrest aimed at undermining President Vladimir Putin.
The United States for its part arrested 10 alleged Russian moles three years ago, including Anna Chapman, who went on to become a national celebrity in Russia, posing on the cover of the country's edition of the men's magazine Maxim. The alleged moles were exchanged for several Russians who had been accused of spying for the United States.
—This story was posted at 2:55 p.m. and updated at 5:38 p.m.