News24

Russian media slam 'spy story'

2010-06-30 15:35

Moscow - Russian media on Wednesday disparaged US claims of a Russian spy ring, saying the scandal was an unconvincing sham aimed at derailing the reset in relations between Moscow and Washington.

"The highest-profile Russia spy scandal in the United States looks like the most unconvincing and most unnecessary," said the leading broadsheet daily Kommersant.

Several newspapers wrote that the scandal was directed against US President Barack Obama and his policy of resetting ties with Moscow after years of frigid relations.

"So stupid!" gushed Tvoi Den, one of Russia's most popular tabloid newspapers. "US special services let their president down conducting the silliest operation to capture sham Russian spies."

Mass-circulation newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets - known for its close ties to the Kremlin - said that "it would be more logical to assume that the main target in this story is Obama who has a lot of ill-wishers in his own country".

"There's more politics than intelligence in this scandal," it added.

'FBI interfered in the reset'

The US authorities announced late on Monday that they had broken a spy ring of 11 "deep-cover" suspects, accused of infiltrating US policymaker on behalf of the Kremlin and seeking details of US nuclear weapons and foreign policy.

"FBI interfered in the reset," declared newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "The spy scandal brings into question the rapprochement between Moscow and Washington."

But Kommersant said the reaction from the Kremlin and the White House meant that both Russia and the US wanted to limit the fallout so as not to hurt rapidly improving bilateral relations.

Quoting an unidentified high-ranking source in diplomatic circles, Kommersant said all the country's "eloquent speakers" had been ordered to refrain from making public comments so as not to fan the flames of the spy scandal.

Many of the commentators, who usually speak on behalf of the Kremlin, refused to comment on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Mikhail Margelov - the usually highly loquacious chairperson of the foreign affairs committee of Russia's upper house of parliament - told AFP he was unavailable.

"He is neither the intelligence nor the foreign ministry, he will not comment on anything," the spokesperson said.