'Disappearance of spy from Cyprus an American smoke-screen'

`Disappearance of spy from Cyprus an American smoke-screen` Moscow: The 11th Russian spy said to be leader of Moscow's espionage ring in the US was a double agent who 'betrayed' his colleagues and his disappearance from Cyprus was probably an American "smoke-screen", a media report said on Wednesday.

Canadian passport holder Robert Christopher Metsos who disappeared from Cyprus after jumping bail was the 'most important figure' in the spy ring and was 'ideally placed' to betray all of its members, "Novaya Gazeta" weekly said today.

"Metsos' disappearance from Cyprus was not a fiasco of the Americans, but was probably their smoke-screen," the weekly said.

US and Russia swapped 14 spies in the worst ever post-Cold War spy scandal between the two countries.

Last week speaking to reporters Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB spy in East Germany, had said he knew the 'betrayers by name'.

"Novaya Gazeta" believes that for many years Metsos was 'misinforming' Russia. Finally Moscow suspected double game, which forced the US FBI to act and arrest the members of spy ring.

"Metsos left for Cyprus, where the comedy of his release on bail was staged, and he immediately returned to the US, where he is currently debriefing and waiting for a new name and surname," Novaya Gazeta's columnist Yulia Latynina writes.

She says her theory is substantiated by two facts: Nobody is asking FBI, how could they let the main spy escape? Secondly, why Russia is mum on the flight of Metsos from Cyprus.

"The escape of Metsos is the only part of the whole story, of which Russia could take pride in.

But so far no report quoting 'reliable sources' has emerged in the media," the weekly notes.