US cracks 'deep-cover' Russia spy mission, arrests 10
The United States has arrested 10 alleged spies accused of carrying out "deep-cover assignments" for years for the Russian intelligence services, officials said Monday.
An 11th suspect remains at large, the justice department said as it revealed the shocking developments only days after US President Barack Obama praised his visiting Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev as a "solid and reliable partner."
The arrests were made in several northeastern states following a multi-year investigation by the Justice Department, the FBI and New York state authorities.
"Eight individuals were arrested Sunday for allegedly carrying out long-term, 'deep-cover' assignments in the United States on behalf of the Russian Federation," a Justice Department statement said.
"Two additional defendants were also arrested Sunday for allegedly participating in the same Russian intelligence program within the United States."
A total of 11 defendants are "charged in two separate criminal complaints with conspiring to act as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation within the United States," it said.
Nine also face charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The arrests were made in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and in northern Virginia, just outside the US capital Washington, following what the Justice Department described as a "multi-year" investigation in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The charges of acting as an agent of a foreign government carry a maximum of five years in prison, while the conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars.
The arrest came only three days after Obama quipped it was time to cut off Cold War-era emergency hotlines at a cordial Washington summit with Medvedev as the pair sought to cement their "reset" in national security ties.
Obama and Medvedev munched burgers and strolled outside the White House together in images carefully choreographed for the cameras.
The US leader even praised Medvedev as a "solid and reliable partner" and added, "we listen to one another and we speak candidly."
© 2010 AFP