In a new twist right out of a James Bond film, a member of an alleged Russian spy ring skipped bail in Cyprus and has vanished, police told the Reuters news agency.
Christopher Robert Metsos, 54, failed to report to police Wednesday according to the terms of release imposed on him Tuesday by a Cypriot court, police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos said
Metsos was arrested at Cyprus' Larnaca airport as he tried to leave the island for Budapest early Tuesday, police said. He was later released $24,410 bail to reappear in court within 30 days, when an extradition hearing was to start.
Katsounotos said a search failed to locate Metsos and authorities have begun the necessary procedures to issue a warrant for his arrest.
U.S. prosecutors have charged Metsos and 10 other suspects with following orders by Russian intelligence to become "Americanized" enough to infiltrate "policymaking circles" and feed information back to Moscow.
Russian officials initially denounced the arrests as "Cold War-era spy stories" and accused elements of the U.S. government of trying to undermine the improving relationship between Moscow and Washington. But the White House and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed confidence that the arrests would not damage ties between the two nations.
Most of the defendants in the operation, which dated as far back as the 1990s, were Russians living in the U.S. under fake names and posing as Canadians or Americans, prosecutors said. The kind of information they are accused of providing to their Russian handlers isn't clear.
Some of the ring's members lived as married couples and used invisible ink, coded radio transmissions and encrypted data, the court papers allege. Some even used the Hollywood-style method of swapping bags in passing at a train station, the papers said.
The arrests raised concerns that Moscow has planted other couples in the U.S., and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz called the arrests "the tip of the iceberg" of a conspiracy by Russia's intelligence service, the SVR, to collect information on this side of the Atlantic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.