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Russia Downplays U.S. Spy Scandal

Published: May 16, 2013 (Issue # 1759)



  • McFaul exiting the Foreign Ministry building on Wednesday.
    Photo: Misha Japaridze / AP

Senior Russian officials on Wednesday downplayed the capture and release of an alleged U.S. spy, suggesting that while the incident won't help already battered relations, it also won't derail cooperation on international issues, including a newly launched effort to end Syria's civil war.

"Russia and the United States have serious work to do on Syria, Iran and North Korea. We need to solve these problems and not waste energy on political hysterics stemming from a fairly banal case of espionage," said Alexei Pushkov, head of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee, by telephone on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sent an equally strong signal that the spy scandal, images of which have lit up state-run TV, would not hinder international cooperation, with Lavrov telling reporters that it hadn't even been worth their time to discuss on the eve of an Arctic Council summit in Sweden.

"We didn't discuss it. Kerry didn't mention it, and I decided that it would have been superfluous to talk about it, because everything is already clear, and everybody understands everything," Lavrov said in a video posted on the Foreign Ministry's website Wednesday.

Back in Moscow, U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul's trip to the Foreign Ministry, which summoned him in the wake of U.S. diplomat Ryan Fogle's detention, seemed a mere formality. The ambassador was presented with a formal letter of complaint, then the two sides discussed legal cooperation and other issues, the ministry said in an online statement.

Video footage of McFaul and his entourage leaving the ministry — he refused to speak to reporters — after the meeting on Wednesday morning could scarcely have been further from the grim images of Fogle's capture and dressing-down that were broadcast the day before.

The Federal Security Service said Tuesday that it had detained Fogle, a third secretary in the political section of the U.S. Embassy, late Monday night as he tried to recruit a member of Russia's secret services. He was carrying technical equipment, instructions for the recruited Russian citizen, disguises and a large sum of money, the FSB said, accusing Fogle of being a CIA spy.

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Monday, Apr. 21


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