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
updated 7:38 PM EDT, Wed May 15, 2013
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
updated 5:16 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Branded an "extremist" by China's state-run media, Joshua Wong isn't even old enough to drive.
updated 2:55 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised political pundits with his rapid rise to power. CNN meets the man behind the enigma.
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
British journalist John Cantlie hadn't been seen in nearly two years. Now, he's the latest hostage to be paraded out by ISIS.
updated 6:49 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
The burial leader. The hospital gatekeeper. The disease detective. All telling powerful, stories from West Africa.
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Alibaba's IPO is unlike anything investors have ever seen and could threaten other online retailers. Maggie Lake reports.
updated 9:30 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
Indian PM Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country.
updated 8:01 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
updated 10:44 AM EDT, Sat September 20, 2014
 Tennis Player Li Na attends the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party as guests enjoy Ciroc Vodka presented by Dubai Duty Free at Kensington Roof Gardens on June 19, 2014 in London,
Asia's first grand slam singles champion Li Na has called time on her 15-year tennis career.
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT