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1 Jul, 2010 05:46

No Russian diplomats to be expelled from the US

The US State Department, which is working with Moscow on the detention of ten people suspected of spying for Russia, will not order any employees of the Russian embassy home.

Both countries say they hope the FBI arrests of the ten people will not affect their relations.

The White House spokesman Robert Gibbs did his best to portray the arrest as simply a law-enforcement matter, something not driven by the President, although Barack Obama had been informed. Gibbs also played down any political consequences.

The US State Department took a similar position by stating that the arrest of the eleven alleged spies, including one detained in Cyprus, is not a set back to improved US-Russia relations.

Barack Obama refused to comment on the matter, Moscow also has been quite restrained. Russia expressed hope that bilateral relations will not be harmed by the incident.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has admitted there are Russian citizens among the suspects, but says they had done no harm to American national interests.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko said on Thursday that, should the necessity arise, Russia is ready to offer help to the arrested Russian citizens.

Ten people arrested in the US remain in custody while the eleventh person allegedly involved in the spy ring, has gone missing when he failed to report to police after his release on bail in Cyprus.

None of the arrested was accused of espionage. Instead their arrest has been attributed to a failure to register as agents of a foreign government. The FBI claims the accused have been carrying out long-term assignments in the US on behalf of Russia. Still, there is no proof in the reports published by the Justice Department that the information the alleged spies obtained and reported to Moscow was of any value or breached the US national interests in any way. That is the reason they were not accused of espionage – the lack of evidence that any classified information was involved.

The FBI also claims some of the arrested were living under false identities and names.