Russia has rejected accusations that one of its citizens, Manhattan banker Yevgeny Buryakov, and two of its diplomats were actually spies for Russian intelligence, as alleged by the FBI following the dramatic arrest of the banker Monday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said there was “no evidence” to support the charges and blamed the incident on Washington’s hostility during an “anti-Russian campaign."
“We demand that provocations against Russian representatives started by U.S. security services stop, that consular workers have immediate access to Yevgeny Buryakov, that the rights of the Russian citizen be strictly observed and his release from custody be ordered,” Lukashevich said.
He warned Buryakov's arrest will “aggravate” U.S.-Russia relations.
The FBI, however, contends it has reams of evidence against the three men, including candid recorded conversations of some of the spies talking to each other and other alleged secret agents about operations and potential sources of information.
In one recorded conversation, the two “diplomats,” Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy, discussed the problems recruiting young females in New York City as spies.
“I have lots of ideas about such girls but these ideas are not actionable because they don’t allow [someone] to get close enough,” Sporyshev says, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday. “And in order to be close you either need to f*** them or use other levers to influence them to execute my requests. So when you tell me about girls, in my experience, it’s very rare that something workable will come of it.”
Sporyshev and Podobnyy were not arrested in connection with the alleged spy ring, as they no longer live in the U.S. and have diplomatic immunity. However, Buryakov was allegedly a “non-official cover” agent -– a spy who comes into a target country in the guise of a private citizen without the protection of diplomatic immunity. As described in another court document, "in many cases [NOCs] are never identified as intelligence agents by the host government. As a result, a NOC is an extremely valuable intelligence asset for the SVR."
The complaint also says that the SVR worked with an unnamed Russian news outlet. An official with knowledge of the case confirmed that outlet is Russia's TASS news agency, which was first reported by The Daily Beast.
Mark Stout, a former CIA analyst, said the tradecraft described in the criminal complaint seemed straight out of the Cold War.
“This is really a classic case of espionage, I think, in terms of how it was conducted both on the Russian side as well as on the FBI side,” Stout told ABC News Monday. “The FBI is very good at this. I would not run up against the FBI trying to run an espionage operation in the United States.”