Russia plays down US spy arrests


Moscow has played down the arrest of alleged Russian spies in the US, saying the issue would “not negatively affect relations”.

The Russian foreign ministry said it had “noted” a similar White House statement that ties should not be hurt.

Russia had said on Tuesday that the US charges were baseless and a throwback to the Cold War. PM Vladimir Putin said US police had “let themselves go”.

Ten people were arrested in the US and one in Cyprus after an FBI inquiry.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesman, quoted by the Interfax news agency, said on Wednesday: “We expect that the incident involving the arrest in the United States of a group of people suspected of spying for Russia will not negatively affect Russian-US relations.

“In this connection, we take note of the statement of White House official representative Robert Gibbs.”

On Tuesday Mr Gibbs said: “I think we have made a new start to working together on things like the United Nations, dealing with North Korea and Iran.

“I do not think that this will affect those relations.”

US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Phil Gordon echoed Mr Gibbs, saying: “We’re moving towards a more trusting relationship. We’re beyond the Cold War; our relations absolutely demonstrate that.”

But he added: “I don’t think anyone was hugely shocked to know that some vestiges of old attempts to use intelligence are still there.”

Russia had initially reacted strongly to the allegations, rejecting them as groundless and saying they could damage the attempts to “reset” US-Russian relations.

Mr Putin had said he hoped the new relationship would be “preserved”, but he also said: “Your police have let themselves go. They are putting people to prison.”

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