Russian collaborator helped US crack spy case: report
A Russian spy ring broken by the United States in June was detected with the help of a Russian intelligence agent whose daughter lives in the United States, the Kommersant newspaper said Thursday.
The respected business daily identified the Russian accomplice as Shcherbakov, a colonel with the Russian foreign intelligence service whose job was to plant civilian moles in the United States similar to the deep cover spy ring dismantled by Washington.
He fled Russia for the United States just three days prior to President Dmitry Medvedev's June visit to Washington, the daily reported.
The paper cited sources as saying that Shcherbakov's son also quit his post with the Russian drug control agency and fled to the United States shortly before Washington revealed the spy ring that month.
His daughter was a long-term resident of the United States, the paper said, without providing further details.
"It seems odd that no one bothered to check why a person of that rank has a daughter living in the United States," Kommersant quoted an unnamed intelligence source as saying.
Shcherbakov himself turned down an important promotion last year, suggesting that he had already been working with Washington, the paper said.
The group of 10 spies, many of whom had been working for years undercover in the United States as sleeper agents, returned to Russia in a July spy swap that saw Moscow send four Russian convicts to the West.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who served as a Soviet foreign intelligence agent in East Germany, already denounced the then-unnamed Russian collaborator as someone whose life will end "with boozing or drugs," Kommersant said.
The Russian foreign intelligence agency was not immediately available for comment.
But the Kommersant report quoted a source as saying that the agency was continuing to investigate "loads" of former and current intelligence employees for potential links with the United States.
"This is a big mix-up that will cost (people) many titles and jobs," the intelligence source was quoted as saying.
"A failure like this is reason enough to take a pause and think about things," the source added, suggesting that Russia was preparing to review its entire US espionage policy.
© 2010 AFP