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Saturday, 9 September, 2000, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Russian quits Japan in spy row
Mr Mori and Mr Putin
Mr Putin was in Tokyo earlier this week
Russia says it is considering retaliation against Japan over an espionage row, as a senior Russian naval attaché accused of stealing military secrets left Tokyo.

Captain Victor Bogatenkov headed home two days after security officials broke in on a dinner he was having with a senior Japanese naval officer.

The Japanese officer, Lieutenant-Commander Shigehiro Hagisaki, was arrested and is reported to have admitted passing on information.

There are forces in Japan which do not take kindly to the improvement of Russian-Japanese ties

Russian embassy official
Russia denounced the allegations as an attempt by forces inside Japan to sour relations between the two countries, and said it was considering whether to expel a Japanese diplomat in response.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry said it was extremely regrettable the diplomat chose to leave while investigations into the case were still continuing.

Diplomatic immunity

Mr Bogatenkov was approached by police on Thursday while at a restaurant with Mr Hagisaki.

The Russian attaché claimed diplomatic immunity and the Russian embassy refused a request for Mr Bogatenkov to appear voluntarily before police.

Shigehiro Hagisaki: previous meetings with Russian officials
Shigehiro Hagisaki: detained during dinner

The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander Losyukov, was quoted by Interfax news agency on Saturday as saying Moscow had to act "in a very measured way."

"All the circumstances have to be considered and we must take a balanced decision in the context of Russian-Japanese relations," he said.

Warming relations

The Japanese officer, who worked at the National Defence Institute as a specialist on the Russian navy, was questioned and then formally arrested.

Japanese authorities say Mr Hagisaki held several previous meetings with contacts from the Russian embassy, and they believe he was selling secret information.

Japanese news agencies have reported that he admitted at least some of the charges against him.

The arrest came days after a visit to Tokyo by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

Tensions between the two countries have eased greatly since the Cold War.

President Putin said relations were better than they had ever been.

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See also:

08 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Espionage industry: Alive and kicking
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05 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Putin takes a tumble
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Putin confronts Kurils dispute
30 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan gives priority to Russia
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