Russian accused by U.S. of spy ring role pleads guilty

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Russian citizen whom U.S. authorities accused of posing as a banker while participating in a New York City spy ring that sought to collect economic and other intelligence pleaded guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge on Friday.

Evgeny Buryakov, 41, admitted guilt in federal court in Manhattan less than a month before he was set to face trial for failing to register as an agent of the Russian government and conspiring to act as an agent without notifying U.S. authorities.

Buryakov, who worked at Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, had been arrested in January 2015 as U.S. authorities unveiled charges against him and two other Russians, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy.

U.S. prosecutors have said the trio conspired to gather economic intelligence on behalf of Russia, including information about U.S. sanctions against the country, and to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources.

Buryakov engaged in covert work on behalf of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, while posing as a banker, the prosecutors said.

Neither Sporyshev nor Podobnyy was arrested, as they enjoyed diplomatic immunity in their respective roles as a Russian trade representative and an attaché to the country’s mission to the United Nations.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Von Ahn