A Russian security services operative — his features bathed in shadows — went on state television Wednesday to claim that the U.S. diplomat who was ordered out of the country was the second American expelled this year over spying allegations.
The anonymous operative said the CIA had failed to halt this “disturbing activity” despite Moscow asking it to do so.
The TV report came one day after Russia ordered Ryan Fogle, a third secretary at the U.S. Embassy, to leave the country after the Federal Security Service claimed to have caught him red-handed trying to recruit a Russian agent in Moscow. The agency, known by the initials FSB, alleged that Fogle worked for the CIA.
State TV channels showed a man identified as an FSB agent saying that another American was told to leave in January in “another case of recruitment.” The anonymous speaker, whose identity as an FSB operative could not be confirmed, did not give the name of the expelled American.
Various Russian TV networks gave different names for the American, and the FSB refused to clarify the name. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell declined to comment.
The purported FSB agent said that in the January case his agency had decided not to publicize the expulsion, unlike the Fogle case, which has been top news in the Russian media for two days. He said the FSB asked its U.S. counterparts after the January case to halt this “disturbing activity.”
The attention given to the Fogle case contrasts with recent moves by Washington and Moscow to develop closer cooperation on counterterrorism in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing April 15.
The bombing suspects — Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his elder brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a manhunt — have roots in the Russian republic of Chechnya. Tamerlan spent six months last year in Dagestan, now the center of an Islamic insurgency; U.S. investigators have been working with the Russians to try to determine whether he had established any contacts with militants in Dagestan.
Russian officials have played the contrast with both annoyance and magnanimity.
“To put it mildly, it is surprising that this extremely crude, clumsy attempt at recruitment took place in a situation where both President Obama and President Putin have clearly stated the importance of more active cooperation and contacts between the special services of the two countries,” Putin’s foreign affairs aide Yuri Ushakov was quoted as saying Wednesday by Russian news agencies.
But Ushakov said counterterrorism cooperation would be among the issues addressed by Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev on a visit to Washington next week, in which he is to present a letter with Putin’s response to an Obama message conveyed last month.
U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul was summoned Wednesday to the Russian Foreign Ministry, which said it handed him a formal protest over the incident. McFaul spent about a half-hour at the ministry and left without speaking to journalists.
Ventrell, speaking in Washington, declined to provide any further information on Fogle, beyond confirming that he was named persona non grata by the Russians. He said McFaul met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Valentin Ryabkov, but wouldn’t say what they spoke about.
McFaul has had a difficult time in Moscow since he took up his post in January 2012. He provoked the ire of Russian officials when one of his first acts was to invite a group of opposition activists and rights advocates to the U.S. Embassy.
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