MOSCOW Moscow said Tuesday that the suspects in an alleged spy ring in the United States were Russian citizens who had never acted against U.S. interests.
The Foreign Ministry also said lawyers and diplomats must be given access to the suspects and urged the United States to take into account the "positive character" of current Russian-U.S. ties when dealing with the case.
U.S. authorities said Monday they had charged 11 people with crimes including conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of Russia and money laundering. They said 10 were arrested on Sunday in the United States, and authorities in Cyprus said the 11th was arrested there Tuesday and released on bail.
The suspects are "Russian citizens who came to the United States at different times. They did not carry out any actions aimed against the interests of the United States," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It said Russia assumes the suspects will be treated well and that lawyers and Russian diplomats will have access to them.
"We are counting on the American side to display the appropriate understanding in this matter, including taking into account the positive character of the current stage of Russian-American relations," it said.
Bilateral relations have improved since U.S. President Barack Obama took office, and the arrests were carried out days after a warm meeting between Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Washington.
(Reporting by Steve Gutterman, editing by Tim Pearce)