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Former Russian spy Dr Oleg Kalugin
"This is nothing extraordinary"
 real 28k

Defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus reports
"Reports suggest that the tunnel was dogged by practical difficulties"
 real 28k

Monday, 5 March, 2001, 11:39 GMT
'Spy tunnel' angers Russia
Russian Embassy in Washington
The alleged tunnel went under the embassy
Russia's Foreign Ministry has angrily demanded details about an eavesdropping tunnel reportedly built under the Soviet embassy in Washington in the 1980s by US intelligence.


If this report is true, we can raise the question of a blatant violation of recognised norms of international law

Russian Foreign Ministry statement
A ministry statement said the US chargé d'affaires in Moscow, George Krol, had been asked to "explain the position of the US State Department".

It said that if proved true, the reports would "amount to a "blatant violation of recognised norms of international law, valid throughout the world in relation to diplomatic representations".

The New York Times reported on Sunday that the FBI and the National Security Agency constructed the secret tunnel in the 1980s but that the operation was betrayed by Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent arrested last month on charges of spying for Moscow.

'Hypocrisy'

The Russian Foreign Ministry's statement Monday suggested Moscow was officially unaware of the tunnel's existence.

Vice-president Dick Cheney
Vice-president Cheney could not say whether tunnel existed
The Soviet Embassy complex was built in the 1970s and 1980s but not fully occupied because of a dispute over Soviet bugging of a new US Embassy building in Moscow.

The complex was not fully occupied until after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

US Vice-president Dick Cheney, interviewed on CBS television, could not say whether the US intelligence services had dug such a tunnel.

Russia's first post-Soviet ambassador to Washington, Vladimir Lukin, accused the US of hypocrisy.

"The main hypocritical paradox is that this tunnel was being dug while the Americans were pounding on the table, and not without justification, that the new US embassy building was full of bugs," he told Russia's independent NTV television.

Bloodletting


It is well known that the US intelligence services harbour a passion for tunnelling

SVR spokeswoman Tatiana Samolis
A spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Tatiana Samolis, told Interfax news agency she "would not be surprised" if the report proved true.

"It is well known that the US intelligence services harbour a passion for tunnelling," she said, citing a US attempt to dig a tunnel from West Berlin to the eastern sector of the city to monitor the Soviet embassy.

The project was compromised by a Soviet agent.

Reports of the Washington tunnel follow a number of accusations and counter-accusations by intelligence services on both sides of the old Cold War divide.

Robert Hanssen's arrest followed the trial in Russia of a US businessman, Edmund Pope, on espionage charges - the first of its kind for decades.

A Russian academic, Igor Sutyagin, is currently being tried in Russia for allegedly passing military secrets to the West, and Russia announced last week that a US student arrested on drugs charges had been trained to work for US intelligence.

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See also:

27 Feb 01 | Europe
Russia holds US 'spy' over drugs
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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