U.S. seeks to minimize damage from spy row with Russia

U.S. seeks to minimize damage from spy row with Russia

The United States counts on successful cooperation with Russia despite an alleged spy scandal, a State Department official said on Tuesday, RIA Novosti reported.

"We feel that we have made significant progress in the 18 months that we have been pursuing this different relationship with Russia. We think we have something to show for it," Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon said.

He said Washington hoped to continue to cement the relationship with Moscow despite the arrest of 11 members of an alleged Russian spy ring in the United States.

"We're moving toward a more trusting relationship. We're beyond the Cold War," Gordon said. "I think our relations absolutely demonstrate that. But as I say, I don't think anyone was hugely shocked to know that some vestiges of old attempts to use intelligence are still there."

He said the State Department was in touch with the Russian government discussing the issue both "here [in Washington] and in Moscow."

Gordon said the Justice Department determined its own timing for the spy ring announcement and this had no connection to U.S.-Russia diplomatic ties.

"We have from the start focused on the reason for the reset in the relations and the common interest, and I think we will continue to do so," he said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he hoped the spy scandal would not damage Russian-U.S. ties.

"Your police have gotten out of hand, and people are being thrown in jail," he said opening a meeting with visiting ex-U.S. President Bill Clinton.

"I hope the positive developments that have accumulated recently will not be damaged," Putin said.

"We hope that people who cherish Russian-American relations understand this," he said.

Moscow admitted 11 members of an alleged spy ring arrested in the United States were Russian nationals, but denied they had acted against the United States.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said they were "Russian citizens who found themselves on U.S. territory at different times."

"They have not committed any actions directed against U.S. interests."

It said Moscow hoped they would be "well treated while in custody" and that U.S. authorities would grant Russian lawyers access to them.

The U.S. Department of Justice said on Monday 11 people had been charged as "unlawful agents of the Russian Federation within the United States."

U.S. authorities said the case was "the result of a multi-year investigation conducted by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, the Counterespionage Section and the Office of Intelligence within the Justice Department's National Security Division."

Some of the suspects had been under surveillance since January and part of their correspondence with Moscow had been intercepted and decoded.

"You were sent to USA for long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house etc - all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission - to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in the U.S. and send intels," one of the intercepted messages allegedly said.

U.S. media has said it is unclear from the report what information was transmitted by those charged and whether their activities jeopardized U.S. security.

Under U.S. law, those found guilty of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government face a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Those found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering face 20 years.

The evidence submitted by the FBI to the court indicates that some of the suspects were in contact with Russian "state officials," including diplomats from Russia's Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York from 2004 to the beginning of 2010.

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