Russia expelled ex-US embassy official who rebuffed spy advances

US embassy in MoscowBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
Russian authorities expelled a former American diplomat living in Moscow earlier in May, less than two months after he allegedly rebuffed an offer to spy on the United States for Russia. The former official, Thomas Firestone, served two tours of duty as a Resident Legal Adviser at the American embassy in Moscow. He later joined the Moscow office of Baker & McKenzie, a US-based law firm with offices worldwide. Firestone had frequent and direct dealings with the Russian government in his capacity as a specialist in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This US law permits the prosecution of bribery cases in American courts. According to The New York Times, Firestone was approached in March of this year by operatives of the Russian Federal Security Service, the FSB, one of the main successor agencies of the Soviet KGB. Citing “people familiar with the case”, The Times claims that the American lawyer turned down an offer to spy for Moscow on behalf of the FSB. On May 5, however, while returning to Moscow from a trip abroad, Firestone was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport, 18 miles outside of the Russian capital. After a 16-hour detention, the former Justice Department official was told that he had been declared persona non grata (undesirable) and was to be denied entrance into Russia; he was promptly placed on a flight to the US, which departed shortly afterwards. The Times says that it remains unclear at this point whether Firestone’s expulsion was directly connected to his alleged refusal to give in to the FSB’s espionage advances. However, the paper claims that the matter has been raised with the Russian government by the administration of US President Barack Obama. Read more of this post

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