June 29th, 2010
12:51 PM ET

Latest developments: Russian spying arrests

Here are the latest developments on the arrests of 10 people in the United States and one in Cyprus on allegations that they spied for Russia:

NEW

[Updated 12:51 p.m. ET] – The Russian Foreign Ministry has confirmed on its official website that the people arrested in the USA as part of an alleged spy ring are Russian citizens. The statement said that those arrested did not commit any actions directed towards American interests and asked for a guarantee that they would be guaranteed access to Russian consular officials and lawyers.

– Five more defendants in the Russian spying case have been scheduled to have court hearings Thursday, the Justice Department announced Tuesday. Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley are scheduled to have a detention hearing in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, while a detention hearing for Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills and Mikhail Semenko will be in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Richard Murphy, Cynthia Murphy, Juan Lazaro and Vicky Pelaez were already scheduled to have a detention hearing on Thursday in federal court in Manhattan, New York. Anna Chapman had a detention hearing Monday and has no additional hearings scheduled, the Justice Department said, updating earlier information that she would be back in court July 27.

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED

– Former Soviet spy Oleg Kalugin is "amazed" and "amused" that Moscow is engaging so heavily in espionage against Washington, he told CNN Tuesday. The head of KGB operations in the United States in the 1970s, who later left Russia to live in America, said getting the type of information the FBI says the operatives collected "does not require such a massive assault" against the United States. "I am amazed," he said. "It reminds me of the worst years of the Cold War. Why do they need to use so many people to get information that is openly available?"

– Robert Christopher Metsos was arrested in Cyprus on Tuesday in connection with the investigation, Cyprus police said. U.S. court documents say he received money from a Russian agent and buried it in a park, where other suspects later dug it up. Cyprus is alerting Washington to the detention of Metsos so the United States can begin extradition proceedings, police said.

– The United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland are investigating reports that suspects used forged British and Irish passports.

– The Russian Foreign Ministry says the arrests are "regrettable" against the background of renewed U.S.-Russia relations, and the Russian foreign minister says Moscow is awaiting an explanation of the arrests.

– Ten people were arrested in the United States on charges of being Russian spies on long-term missions in the United States, the Justice Department announced Monday, with a spokesman calling them "trained Russian intelligence operatives."

– Five suspects appeared in court Monday.

– Four of the suspects who appeared in court were held as flight risks, with their next court appearance slated for July 1.

– The fifth suspect who appeared in court was denied bail, and her next hearing was scheduled for July 27.

– Search warrants are being executed "across the country," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz said Monday.

– The suspects are accused of planning to recruit other people as spies, posing as married couples, and adopting false identities, including those of dead people.

– They engaged in secret communications including exchanges of bags, money drops and use of invisible ink, as well as more modern touches such as private wireless computer networks between specific laptops, court documents said.

– Court papers name them as Vicky Pelaez, her husband Juan Lazaro, Anna Chapman, Richard Murphy, Cynthia Murphy, Donald Howard Heathfield, Tracey Lee Ann Foley, Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills and Mikhail Semenko.

– The intelligence operation dates back to the 1990s, court papers say.

– The FBI secretly recorded, videotaped and photographed the suspects for years before the arrests, according to court papers.

– Word of the arrests came less than a week after President Barack Obama had burgers and fries with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during the Russian leader's visit to Washington.

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Filed under: Espionage • Russia
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Mathew

    Hummmm.....so, during the Bush years everyone was blaming the US intelligence community for not being aware of what the "bad guys" in virtually every corner of the earth were doing/planning to do. Lots of additional funding has gone into improving our intelligence gathering capabilities. Presumably we have our own spies in every country on earth. Now we're shocked that other countries are doing the same?

    Personally, before I get upset over this, I'd have to hear more details about what real crimes these Russian spies actually committed. Right now I'm more angered by the financial looting and thievery by our own corporations than this story of alleged Russian spying....the actions of US banks and executives, the shipping of jobs overseas by large US corporations, the destruction of the US pension system–those and other 'domestic' actions have caused more damage to our society than anything Russia has done in 50 years.

    June 29, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. deborah h

    i thought that obama and president of russia had hamburgers over lunch one day and that obama solved all our problems with russia and we were friends now lol ..haha

    June 29, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      One of the guys sitting behind them on the other table was one of the KGB spy's. He was reporting to Puttin via text about the conversation.

      June 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill

    If we really want to punish those turkeys, send back to Russia asap. Russian jails are notorious, they might be lucky and get shot first by the KGB for getting caught. Worst part they will miss their good life here, that is punishment enough.
    If I was one of them I would ask for political assignment. I can go for ever, this a very funny event

    June 29, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Da Professor

    Probably just a carry-over from the Bushy Dicky era.
    The Ruskies were worried about where our next senseless invasion chasing non-existent WMD would be and they were covering their butt.

    June 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Christian M

    Perhaps! Frankly it looks like a rather civilized way of closing a program and cutting their losses. Particularly more if those operatives don't want to leave...

    June 29, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Todd

    Bill...have you read any newspapers in the past 25 years? You're clueless. Step into the 21st century, grandpa.

    June 29, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grandpa

      21st century!!! When did that happen?

      June 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joane Johnson

    Any movie buffs out there? This story made me think of a good spy thriller of years past. It starred
    Charles Bronson as a KGB agent and Lee Remmick as the American operative. They got together to stop a disaffected soviet KGB worker who was 'waking' sleeping Russian agents living in America and had been trained in American like camps and then given their orders and made to forget until the word was given. Sherie North was this house wife who, after he called her and had been given the right word, she climbed into the family wagon, night gown and all and blew up what had become a defunct facility. One flew his plane at a military site. They were after Donald Pleasance and the name of the movie is called 'Telephon'.

    June 29, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joe Clark

    Iran is holding a number of people, some of which are American citizens, that Russia can apply leverage on to get them returned in exchange for lighter sentences for the ten Russian spies. Some of the Iranians to be exchanged are members of the political opposition of the Regime and whose lives are endangered.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. boogie78

    Why can't we find Osama bin laden?

    June 29, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. boogie78

    but we can find russian spies...r u serious

    June 29, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Scott in Florida

    People wake up what makes you think the Cold War has ever ended it may have had brief lapse with the fall of the USSR but it is still going on nothing has really changed goverments still spy on each other for more reasons than can be listed here. We never stopped delving into the affairs of other countries and neither have they. Regardless of whether it has to do with the military or the political state of a country. If it has the potential of affecting the ecomony, people, or how a country is run it will always exist. To spy on the U.S.A. while protraying yourself as a good citizen is an act of treason period. Those who do so should be dealt with in the harshest manner available. Thats what happens if you spy anywhere else.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. Max

    It’s interesting the timing of this whole spy ring coming at the same time of the movie Salt (1-2 weeks before the movie release)...as stated by the ex-KGB spy that all the information that these spies wanted can be easily retrieved – public records (previous article on CNN)...I wouldn't be surprised if the production company for Salt worked with the consulates (US and Russian) to have these people investigated as part of Salt's PR campaign, I'm sure once the move has completed its theater run and on to DVD, the cases will be thrown out of court.

    July 2, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
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