July 2, 2010
Officials – Spy scandal could harm Russian, US relation

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and US officials are concerned that a brewing spy scandal will harm relations between the two countries.{{more}}

Earlier this week, Putin criticized U.S. law enforcement, even as his government acknowledged that its citizens were among the 11 people that U.S. authorities charged were part of a long-running spy operation.

Officials say the emergence of an alleged cell of secret agents reporting back to handlers in Moscow has the potential to undercut the Obama administration’s claim of improved ties with Moscow as part of a “reset” of U.S.-Russia relations.

President Barack Obama last week took Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to his favorite hamburger joint, which turned out to be just blocks from the Arlington, Va., apartment building where one of the alleged Russian secret agents lived.

“I do not believe this will affect the resetting of our relationship with Russia,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said at a briefing in Washington.

He said Mr. Obama was aware of the alleged spy ring, but the president didn’t discuss the topic in face-to-face meetings last week with Medvedev.

The arrests of 10 people in the U.S., and one in Cyprus mark only the beginning of the effort by U.S. investigators and intelligence analysts to learn the scope of the Russian S.V.R. intelligence agency’s “illegals” operation.

U.S. officials said intelligence analysts have spent recent days listening for a burst of “chatter,” as Russian agents might try to alert other possible deep-cover agents hiding in the U.S.

A criminal complaint filed Monday by prosecutors in New York showed that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have been investigating the alleged Russian agents for a decade, and have had access to communications between Moscow and the suspects.