Skip to main content

Russia orders expulsion of U.S. diplomat accused of being CIA agent

By Alla Eshchenko. Laura Smith-Spark and Nick Paton Walsh, CNN
May 15, 2013 -- Updated 2338 GMT (0738 HKT)
Russia's FSB counterintelligence agency released photos after it said it briefly detained a suspected member of the CIA who was trying to recruit a staff member of one of the Russian special services. Pictured, the man is handcuffed on the ground. Russia's FSB counterintelligence agency released photos after it said it briefly detained a suspected member of the CIA who was trying to recruit a staff member of one of the Russian special services. Pictured, the man is handcuffed on the ground.
HIDE CAPTION
American detained in Russia
American detained in Russia
American detained in Russia
American detained in Russia
American detained in Russia
American detained in Russia
American detained in Russia
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: U.S. State Department confirms an officer was briefly detained and released
  • NEW: "It looks like a set-up to me," says a former FBI counterintelligence officer
  • Ryan Fogle is declared "persona non grata" and ordered expelled from Russia
  • FSB: He was carrying "special technical devices," lots of cash, wigs and dark glasses

Moscow (CNN) -- Wigs, dark glasses, a compass and a large bundle of foreign cash -- it's the stuff of any Cold War-era spy novel.

That's the "spy arsenal" Russia's counterintelligence agency says it found with a U.S. diplomat when he was caught allegedly trying to recruit a Russian special services staff member.

The diplomat in question, Ryan Fogle, third secretary of the Political Department of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, was declared "persona non grata" Tuesday.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has demanded his "early expulsion."

Former CIA officer casts doubt on Russia's allegations

Fogle was detained overnight Monday to Tuesday "during an attempt to recruit a representative of one of the Russian security services," the Foreign Ministry statement said.

U.S. diplomat's story revealed
Russians claim they caught U.S. spy
Russia: Diplomat a spy with wigs
U.S. experts say diplomat was setup

He was briefly held before being handed over to the embassy, following formal protocol, Russia's counterintelligence agency, the FSB, said earlier.

"The 'spy arsenal' that was found with him -- as well as a big sum of money -- not only expose a foreign agent who was caught red-handed but also raise serious questions for the American side," the Foreign Ministry said.

"While the presidents of our countries reaffirmed their readiness to expand bilateral cooperation, including the cooperation of intelligence agencies in fighting international terrorism, such provocative actions in the spirit of the 'Cold War' does not contribute to building mutual trust."

The U.S. diplomat had "special technical devices, written instructions for the Russian citizen being recruited, a large sum of cash and means of changing his appearance," state news agency RIA-Novosti quoted the FSB as saying earlier Tuesday.

Read more: Why Russia and the U.S. still spy (2010)

An image released by the FSB shows what it says are his belongings, including two wigs, a knife, two pairs of dark glasses, a map and a compass.

Another shows what appears to be a large quantity of high-denomination euro currency notes.

The man, with short brown hair and wearing a blue-and-white-checked shirt, is also pictured apparently being detained by security in the street and seated at a desk for questioning.

A photograph of the man's ID card released by the FSB identifies him as Ryan Fogle.

Nikolai Zakharov, a spokesman for the FSB, said the Russian approached by Fogle was free and that there were no charges or accusations against him.

The Russian report of what happened makes the case sound closed, but a former FBI counterintelligence officer cast doubt on that account.

"I very much doubt that a highly trained CIA operative is going to be walking the streets of Moscow wearing a really bad blond wig. It's poor trade craft, and it looks like a setup to me," said Eric O'Neill.

He suggested that the Russians likely planted the material on Fogle for dramatic effect, perhaps to stir up anti-American sentiment, achieve a political objective, or distract attention from some other matter.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had summoned U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul for an explanation.

The embassy did not comment Tuesday.

U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters in Washington that an officer at the Moscow embassy was briefly detained and released.

He declined to comment further.

It's not the first time in recent years that Russia and the United States have traded claims about alleged agents, in episodes reminiscent of the Cold War era.

In 2010, the two nations carried out a "spy swap" in Vienna.

The United States exchanged 10 Russian agents who had been expelled for intelligence gathering for four individuals who had been incarcerated in Russia.

CNN's Alla Eshchenko reported from Moscow, Nick Paton Walsh reported in London, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. CNN's Brian Todd also contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
ISIS has captured the minds of a new generation of global jihadists. What does it mean for al Qaeda?
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0326 GMT (1126 HKT)
Think that U.S. President Barack Obama has done a back flip on Iraq and Syria? Think again.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0338 GMT (1138 HKT)
Treated with all due respect, volcanoes can offer some stunning vistas. Just don't fall in.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0522 GMT (1322 HKT)
The blogger, the hacker, the PM... and Kim Dotcom? New Zealand's election campaign erupts in scandal.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 0236 GMT (1036 HKT)
In the aftermath of that deadly day, the enemy quickly became clear. But now a plurality of extremist threats tests global resolve.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Soviets put stray dogs into orbit. Then, next thing you know...
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0928 GMT (1728 HKT)
Her name is Thokozile Matilda Masipa, and she is the woman who will rule whether Oscar Pistorius is a murderer.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1517 GMT (2317 HKT)
After months -- if not years -- of speculation, the tech giant's first foray into wearables has arrived. Here are our first impressions.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
Steven Sotloff's family believes ISIS paid rebels to alert the group about his location in Syria.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0805 GMT (1605 HKT)
Bali might be a popular tourist destination but there are crowd-free corners worth exploring.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
Scots are preparing to vote on the future of their country. Will they decide to leave the UK?
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT