MOSCOW – The successor to Russia's KGB accused the CIA of trying to steal military secrets Wednesday — with allegations including such traditional spy tradecraft as invisible ink, secret drop points and mind-altering drugs.
Russian television showed grainy footage provided by security services.
Mark Mansfield, spokesman for the Langley, Va.-based CIA, declined to comment Wednesday. Agency officials routinely decline to discuss foreign allegations of U.S. espionage.
Despite the end of the Cold War, experts say the spy business is alive and well between Russia and the United States and that both sides have a healthy interest in trying to predict the other's next moves — even if they're now allies.
A spokesman for the Federal Security Service, the Soviet-era KGB's chief successor, said CIA officers posing as embassy officials in Russia and another, unidentified ex-Soviet republic had tried to recruit an employee at a secret Russian Defense Ministry installation.
U.S. officials told Fox News that the former Soviet republic referred to in accusation is the Ukraine.
The security service interfered at an early stage and was able to monitor the CIA officers' activities and prevent serious damage to Russia's security, the spokesman said on condition of anonymity.
The service named two alleged participants in the operation: David Robertson, whose post at an unnamed embassy in the former Soviet Union was not described, and Yunju Kensinger, reportedly a third secretary in the consular department of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The Interfax news agency, citing an "informed source," said Kensinger had already left Moscow.
It quoted the security service's press office as saying that Kensinger, like other alleged American intelligence agents in Russia, had not met personally with her Russian contact or contacts. Instead, she used secret drop points and messages in invisible ink.
State-controlled ORT television showed grainy footage of a woman identified as Kensinger walking with other embassy employees. It also broadcast pictures of a plastic-wrapped package stashed among some bushes in what it identified as the Sokolniki region of Moscow, and an interview in a darkened room with a man identified as a Federal Security Service operative.
He explained that the Russian Defense Ministry employee, identified only by his first name, Viktor, had gone to a U.S. Embassy in another former Soviet republic last spring to try to find information about a relative who had gone missing abroad. Embassy officers allegedly slipped him psychotropic drugs to get information, because he was found a week later wandering the streets in shock and with amnesia.
The ITAR-Tass news agency reported that only after psychiatric treatment had Viktor — whom a security service employee called a "real patriot" — been able to reconstruct the details of his visit.
"As a result, the Federal Security Service took the necessary steps to stop the leak of Russian secrets through this channel and unmask the Langley employees who used the most unscrupulous methods," ITAR-Tass said.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow would not comment on the espionage accusation, which followed a warm spell prompted by Russia's participation in the U.S.-led anti-terror campaign.
Analysts noted the latest spy scandal emerged just weeks ahead of a May summit between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"It's the choice of timing that immediately raises questions," said Tom Sanderson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "There are a number of people who are unhappy at how Putin is walking in lockstep with the Americans."
Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director for the USA-Canada Institute in Moscow, doubted the scandal will affect the summit. "Of course spy scandals aren't good for bilateral relations, but they don't have any negative consequences," he told the Interfax news agency.
While the two leaders get along quite well and have cooperated together in the war on terror, relations haven't always been cozy.
In December, President Bush announced that the United States would dump the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which Moscow had vowed to preserve. The two nations also sparred over newly imposed U.S. steel tariffs, which Russia says will severely damage its metals industry, and Russia's ban on U.S. poultry.
Shortly after Putin, a former KGB agent, became acting president in December 1999, U.S. businessman Edmond Pope became the first American convicted of spying in Russia in 40 years. Putin pardoned him shortly after his conviction.
Last year, Russia ordered 50 U.S. diplomats to leave the country, mirroring the U.S. expulsion of Russian diplomats following the arrest of FBI agent Robert Hanssen on charges of spying for Moscow. The Russians' arrest of U.S. Fulbright scholar John Tobin on marijuana charges also attracted wide attention after security officials said they believed he was a spy in training. Tobin was freed from prison last August.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.