Russia dismisses talk of new spy scandal with U.S.

MOSCOW Thu Oct 4, 2012 2:46pm EDT

A truck drives into the territory of the ''Sapfir'' scientific and production enterprise, where an office of Sergei Klinov, one of the 11 accused participants in the network, is situated, in Moscow, October 4, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

A truck drives into the territory of the ''Sapfir'' scientific and production enterprise, where an office of Sergei Klinov, one of the 11 accused participants in the network, is situated, in Moscow, October 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

Related Topics

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday the Kremlin had nothing to do with a network alleged by the United States to be smuggling military technology to Moscow.

The U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday it had broken up an elaborate network aimed at illegally acquiring U.S.-made microelectronic components for Russian military and spy agencies. It charged 11 people with taking part.

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed surprise at the allegations.

"The charges are of a criminal nature and have nothing to do with intelligence activity," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agencies.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Washington had informed Moscow that the charges were criminal and unrelated to espionage.

"We will look into this situation and what really happened, and what charges are being imposed on our citizens," he said.

Lukashevich said U.S. authorities had "not properly informed" Russia of the arrest of its citizens. Russian diplomats were seeking access to them and a consul had met one in a courtroom, he said.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview this week that Moscow and Washington must do more to strengthen relations.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney has accused U.S. President Barack Obama of being soft on Moscow during his four-year term and described Russia as the United States' "number one geopolitical foe".

In 2010, the United States arrested 10 suspected Russian agents who were later sent back to Russia in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.

SECURITY EXPERTS PUZZLED

The U.S. Justice Department said 11 people, and companies based in Houston, Texas and Moscow, had been accused on Wednesday of illegally exporting high-tech components to Russian security agencies. The U.S. companies from whom the components were bought were not identified.

A U.S. official said Alexander Fishenko, a Kazakhstan native who migrated to the United States in 1994 and has frequently travelled to Russia, had been charged with operating in the United States as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. He was being held in custody with seven others in Houston.

The Justice Department said three others were in Russia including Sergei Klinov, identified as CEO of Apex System, which it said served as a certified supplier of military equipment to Russia's government, working through subsidiaries.

Klinov, reached by telephone in his office in Moscow, said he had learned about the accusations from media reports.

"Honestly, I am very upset. I just don't know what to say. Everyone has his own truth and it is somewhere in the middle," he told Reuters.

Asked whether he worked either for the security services or for the Defence Ministry, he said: "I am floored by this. I don't know what I'm supposed to say."

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), successor of the KGB, and the Defence Ministry denied immediate comment.

FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov later told Russian news agencies he had ordered the security services to look into the matter and that it would be premature to comment.

Another person facing accusations was named as Yuri Savin and described as the marketing director of Russia-based company Atrilor. The company denied having an employee of that name.

Four of the eight arrested are Russian citizens and three of those also have U.S. citizenship, Interfax reported. It said the others were citizens of Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

"To me, this is ordinary - through maybe risky - business. Many companies and people did business this way in Soviet times," said Andrei Soldatov, head of the Agentura think tank.

"Many tycoons made their first money this way. To say they were all spies would be wrong," said Soldatov, whose organization monitors security and intelligence agencies.

He said however that Russian military institutes, whose work on developing technology lags that of their U.S. counterparts, may have tried to acquire new technology this way.

(Editing by Timothy Heritage and Angus MacSwan)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
Wassup wrote:
Raise your hand if you think Putin was told by Obama to just wait until after the election and he’d send him some parts and electronic stuff. Can you believe it, the shipment went out and was found before Obama got elected. That’s just poor durn timing now isn’t it. Raise your hand if you thought Putin would just admit that this stuff was for him and his military if it was found out. Nope, sort of similar to the Attorney General fiasco on guns to our neighbors in Mexico currently under wraps by “executive” (nope I’m not kidding) order until the great socialist is re-elected and is safely off on vacation. You can’t be calling this news?

Oct 04, 2012 9:14pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Wassup wrote:
How come these criminals are mostly from Russia and its USSR satelites? Ahhhh…yes, just capitalists getting their first mega bucks. Relax, don’t worry. Have some vodka milk toast and calls us after the election. Executive priviledge? Baaahhh…shipment left too early. Obama not re-elected. No problem, executive order has been requested and will be delivered by Attorney General to Kremlin on next jaunt. Free firearms (guns) available. Was overage from Mexico cartels, part of Holder’s shipment. We use executive order again.

Oct 04, 2012 9:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SyriasTruth wrote:
Too bad Russia won’t be able to fix their transistor radios now!
Putin isn’t on the import-export list for much these days! They have to steal it from somewhere else.
This is just a little sideline business of the Putin/Moscow Mafia.!!
They’ll find another way to get their 8-tracks fixed!
You can bet on that!

Oct 06, 2012 5:39pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.