US spy scandal part of election campaign – Russian MPs

FBI agents.(AFP Photo / Mehdi Taamallah)
Russian parliamentarians say the recent so-called “Russian spy scandal” in the US has suspiciously coincided with the final stage of the US presidential campaign and could cause problems for Barack Obama.

The elections campaign in the United States is in the full swing and as always they use the topic of their ‘love to Russia’, one senior MP has said.

Head of the Duma Security Committee Irina Yarovaya said the presidential poll and the generally uneasy internal political situation caused by the scandal with the infamous movie Innocence of Muslims make it especially suspicious that people with Russian names would suddenly appear and allegedly start to export military-related technology. Jumping to conclusions in this case is hardly recommended, she added.

Upper House member Viktor Ozerov claimed that the US special services were the side that gained the most from the spy scandal as they always seek to remind of their importance and then demand, yet another time, to increase the financing for their activities.

“We remember the previous spy scandal that broke out exactly at the moment when President Dmitry Medvedev was on an official visit to the United States and met with Barack Obama. The new scandal is now on the eve of presidential elections,” the senator said, noting that such timing is never coincidental.

Ozerov claimed that many representatives of the US power structures have negative attitude towards the US-Russia “reset” policy and are criticizing Obama’s administration for it.

“The spy scandal could have a negative effect on Obama’s administration in this case,” he said.

The senator noted that, according to media reports, the Russians and other nationals whose names are mentioned in the scandal were engaged in legal businesses and received products that were freely sold on the market. Thus, he noted that the whole story could be purely about business, adding that “the story with espionage could have been plucked from the air by US special services.”

At the same time the politician said he did not expect the scandal to have a major effect on Russia-US relations.

“There will be a short period of mutual accusations, but later the scandal will calm down and people will forget about it, both in Russia and in the United States,” he forecast.

The official comment of the Russian Foreign Ministry also was that the story had too many unclear points, but the charges against the Russians were of purely criminal character and had no relation to intelligence activities.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov also told reporters that Russian diplomats had already met one of the suspects and are planning similar meetings with other persons who are under arrest within this case. He added that the Foreign Ministry “is not simply monitoring the situation, but is thoroughly working it through.”

Senator Ozerov in his press statement also noted that the state must take measures to ensure the release of Russian citizens if they were working for their county’s good.

“It is possible that this will be done through some exchange or through some top level agreements,” he said.

Previously, a US court has charged 11 people with participating in an alleged Russian network that illegally exported high-tech microelectronics and supplied them to Russian military and intelligence agencies. The FBI says the network has been operating through a Texas-based company which pretended to produce traffic lights and other similar equipment, as well as through a Russian-based procurement firm. Eight of the defendants, including at least four Russians, were immediately detained. The other three reside outside the US.

The bureau alleges the US company was not involved in production, but had shipped approximately $50 million worth of microelectronics and other technology to Russia since 2002.

Defendants potentially face over 400 years in jail each.