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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK
Russia accuses US of 'spy plot'
Intelligence headquarters on Lubyanka Square in Moscow
The case has echoes of the old days of the KGB
Russian intelligence officials say they have uncovered a plot by the United States to try to steal military secrets using spies.

The FSB has irrefutable evidence of the CIA's spying activities against Russia

FSB official
A spokesman for Russia's internal intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), accused the CIA of trying to get classified information on new kinds of weaponry and Russia's defence links with other ex-Soviet states.

"The mission was carried out by CIA officers, working under cover of US diplomatic representations in Moscow and one of the CIS countries," the FSB said in a statement.

The US embassy in Moscow has refused to comment on the case, which comes just weeks before a US-Russian summit.

Tricks of the trade

"The FSB has irrefutable evidence of the CIA's spying activities against Russia," an FSB official said.

A diplomat at the US embassy in Moscow is accused of leading an operation to recruit a Russian defence ministry specialist who was working on top secret matters.

The timely intervention of the Russian counter intelligence services enabled them to prevent serious damage to Russia's security

FSB statement
Sources told the Interfax agency that the diplomat, a woman, had already left Moscow.

She allegedly used coded letters, invisible ink and dead letter boxes to communicate with her target.

Another CIA undercover agent, a man named as David Robertson, is alleged to have met the informer outside Russia.

"The timely intervention of the Russian counter intelligence services enabled them to uncover the CIA's plans at an early stage, bring their activities under control and prevent serious damage to Russia's security," the FSB said.

Tensions rising

Russia and the United States have traded mutual accusations of spying a number of times in recent years.

Robert Hanssen
The Robert Hanssen case sparked dozens of expulsions
Just over a year ago, the US expelled 50 Russian diplomats on spying charges, prompting Russia to expel 46 American diplomats, after FBI agent Robert Hanssen was revealed to have spied for Russia.

And six months before that, American Edmund Pope was sentenced to 20 years in jail for trying to acquire military secrets.

President Vladimir Putin later pardoned him on grounds of ill health.

The latest spying allegations are set to heighten tensions before Mr Putin meets US President George W Bush in a few weeks' time.

After a brief spell of detente, following the 11 September attacks, friction between the nations has recently grown as they come into conflict over issues including steel tariffs and poultry imports.

See also:

20 Dec 00 | Media reports
Russia's sing-song spies
12 Oct 99 | Europe
Italy 'KGB spies' named
26 Mar 01 | Europe
Who is winning the spy war?
20 Feb 01 | Americas
Who's being spied on?
01 Jul 01 | Europe
US diplomats quit Russia
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