MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador to Russia today to submit a formal protest over Moscow’s claim that it caught a U.S. diplomat disguised in a blond wig trying to recruit a counterintelligence officer for the CIA.
Ambassador Michael McFaul entered the ministry’s building in central Moscow in the morning and left half an hour later without saying a word to journalists waiting outside the compound. A Foreign Ministry statement said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov handed McFaul the protest during their meeting, during which they also discussed other international issues.
Russian security officials reported on Tuesday that they had briefly detained Ryan Fogle, a third secretary at the U.S. Embassy, who was carrying special technical equipment, disguises, written instructions and a large sum of money. Fogle was later handed over to U.S. Embassy officials.
McFaul has had a tough run in Moscow since he took up his post in January 2012. He provoked the ire of Russian officials when one of his first acts was to invite a group of opposition activists and rights advocates to the embassy. Later, McFaul drew objections when he stated bluntly that Russia had offered money to the leader of Kyrgyzstan for removing a U.S. base from its soil.
Fogle’s detention appeared to be the first case of an American diplomat in Moscow publicly accused of spying in about a decade.
The State Department would only confirm that Fogle worked as an embassy employee, but wouldn’t give any details about his employment record or responsibilities in Russia. The CIA declined comment.
The Russian Foreign Ministry promptly declared Fogle persona non grata and ordered him to leave Russia immediately. He has diplomatic immunity, which protects him from arrest.
Despite the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States still maintain active espionage operations against each other. Last year, several Russians were convicted in separate cases of spying for the U.S. and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.