New York: A Russian national here has been arrested and charged by the US authorities for spying while working as a banker and trying to collect economic intelligence and recruit locals as intelligence sources.
Evgeny Buryakov, 39, who worked in the US as an agent of Russia's foreign intelligence agency 'SVR', was placed under arrest yesterday in Bronx and later appeared before US Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in Manhattan federal court.
He operated under 'non-official cover,' entering and remaining in the United States as a private citizen and posing as an employee in the Manhattan office of a Russian bank.
Two other Russian nationals - Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy - have also been charged in connection with Buryakov's living as a covert intelligence agent on behalf of Russia in New York city, without notifying the US Attorney General of his status as required by federal law.
Sporyshev and Podobnyy no longer reside in the US and have not been arrested. Due to their prior positions in the US on behalf of Russia, both were protected by diplomatic immunity from arrest and prosecution while in America.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said the charges demonstrate the US' firm commitment to "combating attempts by covert agents to illegally gather intelligence and recruit spies within the United States. We will use every tool at our disposal to identify and hold accountable foreign agents operating inside this country?no matter how deep their cover."
US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said in a statement that following the US' previous prosecution of Russian spies, who were expelled from the US in 2010 when their plan to infiltrate upper levels of US business and government was revealed, the arrest of Buryakov and the charges against him and his co-defendants "make clear that more than two decades after the presumptive end of the Cold War Russian spies continue to seek to operate in our midst under cover of secrecy."
"Indeed, the presence of a Russian banker in New York would in itself hardly draw attention today, which is why these alleged spies may have thought Buryakov would blend in. What they could not do without drawing the attention of the FBI was engage in espionage," he said.
Bharara added that New York City may be more hospitable to Russian businessmen than during the Cold War, but federal authorities remain vigilant to the illegal intelligence- gathering activities of other nations.
Buryakov, Sporyshev and Podobnyy are charged with two counts of participating in a conspiracy for Buryakov to act in the US as an agent of a foreign government without first notifying the Attorney General and carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Sporyshev served as a Trade Representative of Russia in New York from 2010 to 2014 while Podobnyy served as an Attache to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations from 2012 to 2013. Both are SVR agents.