Top Russian spy's call to father triggered arrests: report
A telephone call from Russian spy Anna Chapman to her father in Moscow led US counterintelligence services to hasten the arrests of her and nine Russian agents in the United States, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
Citing unnamed US law enforcement and intelligence sources, the newspaper said the June 26 call to Moscow was apparently monitored by the United States.
In a cloak-and-dagger operation carried out in Vienna, Washington on Friday sent 10 arrested spies back to Moscow in exchange for four people charged by Russia with working for Western intelligence services.
US officials insisted that a deep cover Russian spy network never managed to pass on any classified information despite working in the United States for more than a decade.
According to The Post, US authorities began planning in mid-June to arrest four couples, who had been under FBI surveillance for years, plus Chapman, 28, and another new Russian "illegal," Mikhail Semenov, who had been in the United States for only months.
Part of the plan involved getting Chapman and Semenov to undertake acts, at the suggestion of FBI informants, that would enable them to be indicted for more than just carrying on secret communications with Russian officials, the report said.
Chapman's call to Moscow and her conversation with her father, a KGB veteran working in Moscow's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came after a troubling meeting with an FBI informant, the paper noted.
It also came on the eve of a scheduled trip by one of the other Russians, Richard Murphy, to Moscow where he planned to consult with his superiors at the headquarters of the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence agency.
The FBI knew Murphy's plans would take him first to France and then to Russia, and the agency had followed him on a similar trip to Moscow in March, The Post said.
But his FBI monitors feared that the SVR, alerted by Chapman's call, might not allow him to return, the report said.
They also worried that the SVR could alert the other spies in the United States to flee the country or seek shelter in Russian diplomatic missions, The Post noted.
© 2010 AFP