Ryan Christopher Fogle, the third secretary of the American Embassy in Moscow, was held overnight before being handed back to U.S. authorities Tuesday, according to the Federal Security Service, the Russian intelligence agency known as the FSB. He was carrying a large amount of money, technology, written instructions for the Russian recruit and appearance-changing equipment, the FSB website said.
The agency claimed that Fogle was working for the CIA. The CIA declined to comment, Associated Press reported.
Purported photographs of Fogle disguised in a blond wig and baseball hat were broadcast on the all-news Channel One. Equipment confiscated from him was said to include a recording device, blond and dark wigs, sunglasses, a knife and stacks of 500-euro notes.
The FSB released to Russian media a copy of a letter that Fogle was allegedly carrying. It is addressed "Dear friend" in Russian and offers instructions on how to make contact with the unidentified sender.
According to an AP translation, it says, in part: "We are prepared to offer you $100,000 and discuss your experience, expertise and cooperation, and your payment might be far greater if you are prepared to answer some specific questions. Additionally, for long-term cooperation we offer up to $1,000,000 a year with the promise of additional bonuses for information that will help us."
An FSB official, speaking to The Times on condition of anonymity, said the agency had not initially intended to make a public incident of the matter.
“Under different circumstances we could have tried to avoid publicity on the episode not to embarrass our [U.S.] partners,” the official said. “But their man acted way too arrogantly and defiantly as if he was in a spy movie: The guy was loaded with money, sets of instructions, makeup kit and other giveaway stuff.”
The official refused to confirm or deny that the person Fogle was recruiting was part of an FSB trap.
The last big spy scandal involving the United States and Russia occurred in 2010, when Russian Anna Chapman was arrested along with nine other alleged sleeper agents in the United States.
Although there are risks that Fogle’s detention could worsen relations between Russia and the U.S., it probably will not, said Andrei Kortunov, president of the New Eurasia Foundation think tank. The 2010 spy scandal had little impact on relations between the two countries.
“Spy arrests are awkward for each country, and those involved probably won’t be getting promotions,” Kortunov said. “These things are inevitable. We just have to watch the reaction from the Kremlin and the U.S. for indication of what is to come.”
Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, was summoned to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the ministry’s website said. McFaul tweeted that he would not comment, and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow also declined to comment.
[For the record, 1:35 p.m. May 14: An early version of this post said that the FSB posted on its website a digital copy of a letter it said was carried by the accused American. The agency released the copy to Russian media but did not post the letter on its website.]