Evgeny Buryakov, seen here in a court sketch, has been accused of spying for Russia.
Evgeny Buryakov, seen here in a court sketch, has been accused of spying for Russia.

Story highlights

An undercover FBI agent gave bugged binders to the alleged spy

Hours of conversations were recorded

Evgeny Buryakov is due in Manhattan federal court on April 4

CNN —  

The FBI used techniques reminiscent of Cold-War spy tactics to eavesdrop on Russian intelligence agents in New York City: bugging binders full of “confidential” industry information, court documents revealed this week.

The covert practice was revealed in filings for the trial of Evgeny Buryakov on Tuesday, who was arrested in January 2015. Prosecutors allege that Buryakov’s cover was as an employee for a Russian Bank in New York City but he actually was working for the Russian foreign intelligence agency, SVR.

Buryakov began meeting with an undercover FBI agent who he believed to be an energy company analyst in 2012, court documents say.

The undercover agent started to supply the binders to Buryakov in 2013, urging him to return them as soon as he was finished with them because they were sensitive and confidential, according to court documents.

Buryakov complied with the request, allowing the U.S. government to record hours of the Russian intelligence agent’s conversations between January and May of 2013, the documents say.

The recordings “make clear” that the men “were operating as SVR officers by receiving taskings from Moscow, gathering responsive information and sending it back to SVR headquarters,” according to the court documents.

Two of the agents recorded were identified in court papers as Victor Podobnyy and Igor Sporyshev.

It’s not like in the movies

Podobnyy and Sporyshev were suspects in the ring associated with Buryakov but left the United States with diplomatic immunity because they were working for the Russian government.

The audio recordings caught moments in which some expressed frustration with their clandestine work, expecting it to be more Hollywood-like, the court documents said.

Podobnyy thought the work “would be just slightly more down to earth than in the movies about James Bond,” like using a false identity, the court documents said

Why the alleged spy ring matters

Sporyshev agreed, saying that he thought he would travel abroad with a “different passport.”

The recordings also suggested that this wasn’t Buryakov’s first stint as an intelligence officer, the prosecutors said.

Podobnyy was recorded telling Sporyshev that Buryakov had been in South Africa under what the prosecutors say was “non-official cover between approximately 2004 and 2009.”

Former Putin aide died of ‘blunt force trauma’

Buryakov faces a maximum term of five years at sentencing on May 25. His lawyer declined to comment.

He is due in Manhattan federal court on April 4.