U.S. spies on China from Kyrgyz base: Russian TV

MOSCOW Sun Apr 5, 2009 5:18pm EDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian state television accused the United States on Sunday of spying on China and Russia after secretly turning its only remaining air base in Central Asia into a state-of-the-art surveillance center.

A U.S. defense official dismissed the allegations as ridiculous on Friday, when Rossiya television, widely seen as an official mouthpiece in Russia, released a clip of the documentary it aired on Sunday about the Manas base.

Kyrgyz and U.S. officials could not be reached for comment late on Sunday.

Kyrgyzstan told Washington in February to close the base near the capital Bishkek, used to send supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, after it secured a $2 billion economic aid package from Russia. The Americans are due to leave in August.

Airing the documentary, called "Base," Rossiya showed a compound of two-storey windowless buildings, and said: "In one of the buildings ... there is a multi-channel, multi-functional system of radio-electronic surveillance.

"This station can eavesdrop the whole world -- every fax, every e-mailed letter. Every call from a mobile or landline phone is being recorded and processed. Billions of messages are being intercepted."

It said: "At Manas, the U.S. built a station which controls entire Central Asia, parts of China and Siberia. For Americans, the existence of the intelligence complex at the base is more important than the runway. It was done in a treacherous way, without being endorsed by the Kyrgyz authorities."

Airing the film just days after President Dmitry Medvedev's first meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama is likely to raise speculation of tensions within Russia's elite.

The U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity of Friday, noted the TV report surfaced just as U.S. and Kyrgyz officials had resumed dialogue over the base's future.

The film was made by Russian journalist Arkady Mamontov, who in 2006 provoked a spat between London and Moscow with a documentary showed that pictures of what Mamontov said were British spies using a fake rock to gather secrets electronically.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Alison Williams)