'US agent' in Russia sought Boston intelligence: report
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul arrives at the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow, May 15, 2013. REUTERS PhotoAn alleged American CIA agent caught red-handed by Russia while wearing a blonde wig was likely interested in obtaining information about the Boston bombing suspects whose origins were in the Russian Caucasus, a report said Monday.
The Kommersant daily said it was probable that the suspected agent Ryan Fogle was looking for information on the Tsarnaev brothers who are alleged to have carried out the marathon bombings.
It linked the agent's capture, which threatens to further stress ties between Washington and Moscow, to a trip that a US delegation made to Dagestan in April in coordination with the Russian authorities to investigate the blasts.
Suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev travelled to the region of Dagestan in 2012 and US authorities are eager to see if he built up contacts there with the local Islamist underground.
"It is likely that during the trip in April the US side obtained the phone numbers of (Russian) Federal Security Service (FSB) agents," said Kommersant, which is known for its contacts in the security service and foreign ministry.
"Clearly, they then decided to use it to have personal contacts with anti-terror agents, given that the exchange of information in the form of question and answers between special services is not always quick and smooth," it said.
The April 15 bombings at the finish line of the Boston marathon killed three people and injured more than 260. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during the search for the bombers but his younger brother Dzhokhar has now been charged over the bombings. The FSB has already announced that Fogle was apprehended while seeking to recruit a Russian security service agent while looking for information on the Northern Caucasus.
Kommersant noted that the payment allegedly promised -- an advance of $100,000 rising up to $1 million -- was unusually high.
"The CIA needed the (Russian) anti-terror agent after the terror attack in the Boston marathon," it said.
US ambassador summoned in Russia spy row
US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul on Wednesday met officials at the foreign ministry after being summoned to explain the presence of an alleged CIA agent working undercover at the embassy who was detained this week.
Russia on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of the alleged US agent, identified as Ryan C. Fogle, the third secretary of the political section of the US Embassy after airing footage of his capture while wearing a blonde wig.
McFaul arrived at the ministry for the 10:00 am (0600 GMT) meeting but declined to speak to journalists at the entrance, Russian television reported. He was seen leaving the building after a brief meeting shortly afterwards.
He had been expected to meet Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the RIA Novosti state news agency reported.
The ministry had summoned McFaul for an explanation after slamming Washington for what it described as "provocative acts in the spirit of the Cold War".
Washington acknowledged the incident late Tuesday.
US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell confirmed that an American staffer at the embassy had been briefly detained, but refused to respond to allegations that the man was an undercover CIA agent.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists that he had opted not to bring up the case at Tuesday talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, however.
"I decided that talking about it would be superfluous, since it is already made public and everyone already understands everything," he said in comments in Sweden, published on the ministry's website on Wednesday.
Footage published by state English language television RT showed Fogle being pinned face down to the ground and having his hands put behind his back for the arrest, while apparently wearing a blonde wig under his baseball cap.
He was then shown being questioned at the Federal Security Service (FSB) while documents such as his passport and a stack of 500 euro notes along with some letters were displayed.
The FSB footage also displayed supposed espionage equipment including two wigs as well as a compass, a street atlas of Moscow and a somewhat old-fashioned mobile phone.