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Russia investigates U.S. lecturer

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia's security police force (FSB) has reprimanded a U.S. lecturer over her research into local companies.

A spokeswoman from the Omsk branch of the FSB told Reuters they had approached Elizabeth Sweet after she asked her students at the Siberian university to prepare a report on the region's social and economic situation.

The FSB -- a successor to the Soviet KGB secret police -- has recently launched many high-profile spy investigations into academics and foreigners. They did not approve of Sweet's methods, the spokeswoman said.

“This type of information, gained through unofficial sources, does not give a true reflection of the situation and if it was published abroad it could harm the image and competitiveness of our businesses," she told the news agency.

“So there was a discussion between the foreigner and an FSB employee at the university and it was explained that this activity could damage our organisations and our firms."

The spokeswoman denied Russian television and radio reports that Sweet had been expelled.

She told Reuters: "She (Sweet) agreed to hand over the material she gathered to the dean's office and said she wouldn't do this any more, but no official case was brought against her.

"She has not been expelled and will fulfill her contract. But the renewal of her contract is under question."

Russia has seen a wave of spy cases since former FSB director Vladimir Putin became president last year.

U.S. businessman Edmond Pope was sentenced to 20 years in jail last year for gathering state secrets, but was pardoned shortly afterwards by Putin.

Russia and the U.S. expelled four of one another’s diplomats and threatened to depose many more earlier this year in the worst spy row since the Cold War.

A string of Russian academics and environmentalists have also fallen foul of the FSB.

Igor Sutyagin, an arms expert with Moscow's prestigious USA-Canada Institute, is accused of exchanging nuclear submarine secrets to the U.S. and Britain.

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