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Tuesday, 27 February, 2001, 17:47 GMT
Russia holds US 'spy' over drugs
Edward Tobbin
Edward Tobbin in court as his bail application fails
A US citizen alleged to have links with the American intelligence services has been arrested in Russia for possession of drugs, the state security service said on Tuesday.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) said John Edward Tobbin had been held since 1 February in the city of Voronezh, 475km (300 miles) south of Moscow.

He studied Russian at a US Defence Department college... and received training at the Intelligence Centre in Fort Huachuka, Arizona

FSB statement
Officials said he had been trained at a US intelligence centre, and speculated that he was preparing to receive "his main assignment".

But a US diplomatic source rejected any suggestion that Mr Tobbin had worked as a spy, describing him as "just out of college".

The arrest comes at a time of heightened tension over alleged cases of espionage on both sides of the old Cold War divide.

Fulbright scholar

Analysts say it may be intended as a signal to the world, that the Russian security services are putting their house in order.

Edward Tobbin
He faces a possible three-year sentence
The FSB said that Mr Tobbin studied Russian at a US Defence Department college and was trained at an Intelligence Centre in Fort Huachuka, Arizona, receiving clearance to work with classified documents in 1997.

The organisation's spokesman in Voronezh, Pavel Bolshunov, said: "The Russian security services believe the American was, apparently, carrying out work to familiarise himself with the country and language before receiving his main assignment."

He added that Mr Tobbin had been trained as an interrogator, and faced up to three years in prison.

Mr Tobbin arrived in Voronezh in September 2000 on a prestigious Fulbright award, to do post-graduate study in political science.

Bail rejected

Russian media sources said he was detained in a nightclub in January in possession of 1.5g of marijuana, a few days before he was formally arrested.

Spying timeline
26 February: trial of Moscow academic resumes
18 February: FBI officer seized in US
30 January: Russian diplomat defects
6 December 2000: Russian court finds US businessman guilty of spying
His lawyer, Vladimir Kulinichev, said Mr Tobbin, aged 24, was in good health, but an application for bail on Tuesday had been unsuccessful.

The Interfax news agency said he was being held in a four-man cell.

The dean of foreign students at Voronezh State University, Zhanna Sokolova, said Mr Tobbin wanted to study changes in the mood of the Russian people, including their goals and hopes, over the last 10 years.

She added that his Russian was perfect.

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See also:

06 Dec 00 | Europe
Russia jails US 'spy'
20 Feb 01 | Americas
Who's being spied on?
20 Feb 01 | Americas
Fifty years of spies
20 Feb 01 | Americas
FBI agent arrested for spying
05 Apr 00 | Europe
Analysis: Spymasters change focus
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