MOSCOW — A U.S. diplomat disguised in a blond wig was caught red-handed as he tried to recruit a Russian agent in Moscow, Russia's security services announced Tuesday, claiming the American was a CIA officer.
Ryan Fogle, a third secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, was carrying special technical equipment, disguises, written instructions and a large sum of money when he was detained late Monday, Russia's Federal Security Service said.
The FSB, which is the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said Fogle was trying to recruit a Russian counterterrorism officer who specializes in the Caucasus, a region in southern Russia that includes Chechnya and Dagestan. The suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings are ethnic Chechen brothers and the elder brother spent six months last year in Dagestan, now the center of an Islamic insurgency.
U.S. investigators have been working with the Russians to try to determine whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev had established any contacts with the militants operating in Dagestan.
Fogle, who was handed back to U.S. Embassy officials, was declared persona non grata and ordered to leave Russia immediately, the Foreign Ministry said. He has diplomatic immunity, which protects him from arrest.
It was the first case of an American diplomat publicly accused of spying in about a decade and seemed certain to aggravate already strained relations between Russia and the U.S.
The Foreign Ministry summoned Ambassador Michael McFaul to appear Wednesday in connection with the case. McFaul, who was doing a question-and-answer session on Twitter when the detention was first announced, said he would not comment on the spying allegation.
Noting recent efforts by the two countries to improve cooperation in countering international terrorism in the wake of the Boston bombings, the Foreign Ministry said "such provocative actions in the spirit of the Cold War do nothing to strengthen mutual trust."