A man in Cyprus was arrested under suspicion of espionage and money laundering on Tuesday, a day after the U.S. Justice Department announced the arrest of ten individuals, alleging their connection to a Russian spy ring in the United States. Russia denies any such network, and has called the DOJ’s announcement “baseless and improper.”
Canadian man Robert Christopher Metsos, 55, faces extradition by the United Stares after he was arrested in Cyprus. According to CNN, Metsos had a ‘red notice’ issued on him by Interpol for his activities.
All eleven face charges of being Russian agents; BBC News reported that they have been accused of “conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of a foreign government.” In addition, eight of the ten individuals previously arrested also face charges of conspiracy to launder money.
According to Justice Department allegations, the accused were on a long term operation posing as citizens for years, as Reuters reported, “carrying out deep-cover work in the United States to recruit political sources and gather information for the Russian government.” Some of the suspects had been undercover since the 1990s. They were to build lives in this country; to attend universities, to gain long term civilian jobs, all in order to provide their cover as they built relationships with people with knowledge in sensitive areas of U.S. governmental policy.
BBC News stated that some of the area of interest in which they were to gather information and intelligence were nuclear weapons, U.S. arms control positions, topics on Iran, rumors concerning the White House, CIA leadership turnover, and political parties.
The FBI remarked that the accused were trained in the usage of Russian Foreign Intelligence infiltration techniques. A message sent to two of the suspects stated, “You were sent to USA for long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house etc – all these serve one goal: fulfil your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US and send intels.”
Russia has continued to deny that they have such an intelligence gathering program in the United States. The Russian Foreign Ministry stated on its website that such accusations are “unfounded and have unseemly goals.” Furthermore, it said, “In any case, it is highly deplorable that all of this is happening against the background of the reset in Russia-US ties announced by the US administration itself.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested a political motivation by the United States in making the arrests, and stated, “The moment when it was done has been chosen with a special finesse.” He also remarked that he expected Washington to explain further.