The Soviet Union accused a U.S. military attache of spying and ordered him to leave the country Wednesday, less than a week after his Soviet counterpart was ousted from Washington on similar charges.
The Foreign Ministry said the attache, Lt. Col. Daniel Francis Van Gundy III, “attempted to enter a closed area, deliberately diverting from the officially permitted route, and clandestinely photographed military facilities.” Van Gundy was given 48 hours to leave.
But chief ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov also appeared to tacitly acknowledge the retaliatory nature of the expulsion order, saying the ousting of Van Gundy was a “response to the provocation of the U.S. special services.”
“We were not the ones to initiate this process,” Gerasimov said. “Now that the new Administration in Washington is reviewing its policies, we have some spy mania again.”
Van Gundy, 42, was assigned to Moscow in November, 1987, and was midway through his scheduled tour of duty here. He lives on the embassy compound with his wife and two of their three daughters. The family is expected to leave today. Van Gundy himself declined Wednesday to answer questions.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Gilbert rejected the charges as “unwarranted, inappropriate, without justification and certainly in no way in keeping with the positive tone of the U.S.-Soviet relationship.”
“It clearly appears to us to be a tit-for-tat reaction,” Gilbert said. “We are considering our response,” he added, declining to elaborate.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck also called Van Gundy’s expulsion “unwarranted.”
She declined to say if Washington will continue the tit-for-tat expulsions or permit the situation to cool down.
“We are considering our response,” Beck said. “There is a range of options available to us but I am not going to comment further on this matter at present.”
The expulsion comes less than a week after the U.S. government announced March 9 that it was ousting Soviet Lt. Col. Yuri N. Pakhtusov after a six-month sting operation by the FBI.
The United States said Pakhtusov, 35, contacted a civilian American worker at a computer company last August in an effort to obtain sensitive information about how the U.S. government protects computer secrets. The employee contacted the FBI, which then began its investigation, according to U.S. officials. Neither the employee nor the company was named.
A U.S. source said Pakhtusov was a member of GRU, the Soviet military’s intelligence arm. Soviet officials last week declined to comment on Pakhtusov’s alleged affiliation with GRU.
Called a Provocation
On Wednesday, Gerasimov called the expulsion of Pakhtusov “a provocation, uncalled for and unjustified.” He said the accusations of espionage against the Soviet officer were based on “an artificially cooked scenario staged rather clumsily by the FBI” and that his expulsion was “not in line with the spirit of peaceful cooperation in U.S.-Soviet relations.”
Gerasimov said Pakhtusov was arrested after he left his apartment to take out the garbage and a neighbor in the building asked him to come inside his apartment “under the pretext that he wanted Pakhtusov’s advice concerning the repair of a TV set.”
Gerasimov said the neighbor then “attempted all of a sudden to give Pakhtusov a parcel, which he refused to take. At that very moment, FBI agents broke into the flat and, resorting to force, handcuffed Pakhtusov.”
The last expulsions of American diplomats from the Soviet Union were in October, 1986. Then, the Kremlin expelled five American diplomats after 25 Soviet diplomats were ordered out of the Soviet U.N. Mission in New York.