Moscow denies knowledge of alleged Russian spy ring busted in Texas
October 5, 2012 4 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Government officials in Moscow have denied knowledge of an alleged Russian spy ring, which is accused by United States authorities of procuring sensitive microelectronics technology on behalf of the Russian military. Early on Wednesday morning, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted pre-dawn raids at several locations in Houston, Texas, and arrested eight members of the alleged spy ring. Four of the arrestees are allegedly Russian citizens, while the remaining five are from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Four are naturalized American citizens. They include Alexander Fishenko, chief executive officer of Apex System LLC, which is accused by the FBI of having exported over $50 million in dual-use microelectronic devices to Russia since 2008. US federal prosecutors allege that three more spy-ring members are currently in Moscow; they include Yuri Savin, Director of Marketing at a company called Artrilor, which is said to have been at the receiving end of Apex System’s export operations. According to the indictment, Arc Electronics told its US suppliers that the microelectronics technologies were intended for use in various types of streetlights. But in reality, said the FBI, the company gave the hi-tech supplies to the Russian Ministry of Defense for use in airborne surveillance systems, as well as in remote weapons guidance systems, among other military applications. The FBI says it has in its possession extensive audio intercepts of the suspects communicating with Russian intelligence, as well as conferring among them about how to hide incriminating documents from US federal authorities. But Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, told Russian reporters on Thursday that the charges against the 11 individuals were “of a criminal nature” and had “nothing to do with intelligence activity”. His remarks were later echoed by Alexander Lukashevich, spokesman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who said that US authorities had informed the Russian government that the FBI indictments were criminal and did not relate to spying. According to reports from Moscow, the four Russian nationals among the arrestees pleaded not guilty at their first court hearing in Huston on Thursday. Reuters news agency said it contacted the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s primary intelligence organization, and the Ministry of Defense, both of which denied comment. Late yesterday, the Director of the FSB, Alexander Bortnikov, said his organization was “looking into the matter” and that it would be “premature to comment” at that point in time.