U.S. Deports Russian In 2015 Spy Case That Continues To Reverberate
Mike Eckel April 05, 2017
U.S. authorities have deported a man convicted of working as an unregistered Russian government agent, in a case that has shed light on Russian intelligence operations in the United States.
The case against Yevgeny Buryakov, who U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement said was sent back to Russia on April 5, has also offered a glimpse into some of the ongoing federal investigations of possible collusion between Russian officials and aides of now U.S. President Donald Trump.
Buryakov was accused by federal prosecutors in 2015 of working for the Russian foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, while employed by the state-owned Russian bank Vneshekonombank.
He was charged with trying to recruit Americans and gathering "economic intelligence" while working at the bank's New York branch.
Buryakov's arrest was trumpeted by then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as the latest in a string of arrests that targeted Russians believed to be working as intelligence agents in the United States.
Buryakov pleaded guilty last May to violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires anyone working in a political capacity for a foreign government to register with the U.S. Justice Department.
He was sentenced to prison and agreed to be deported at the conclusion of his sentence. He flew back to Russia on April 5 on a commercial flight and was turned over to Russian authorities, immigration officials said.
In recent months, scrutiny of Buryakov's former employer, Vneshekonombank, has grown as federal investigators look into possible collusion between Russian officials and former and current Trump aides.
The director of the FBI last month confirmed his agency was looking into those ties. The Senate Intelligence Committee and three other congressional committees are also probing the broader question of alleged Russian interference in last year's presidential election.
At the time of Buryakov's arrest, prosecutors announced similar charges against two other Russian citizens -- Igor Sporyshev and Viktor Podobny. Both held diplomatic passports, however, and weren't in the United States at the time.
Podobny's name popped up again this week when a former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page, confirmed that he had met with Podobny in 2013.
In federal court records filed in 2015, investigators asserted that Podobny was an SVR officer posing as an attaché at the Russian mission to the United Nations, and that he tried to recruit a person named "Male 1" as an agent.
Page issued a statement this week confirming a BuzzFeed report that he was, in fact, "Male 1."
According to the court documents, FBI agents secretly recorded Podobny and Sporyshev discussing how to recruit Page, a former Moscow-based investment banker. Page provided them with documents about his New York-based investment firm, Global Energy Capital, which says it focuses on the energy sector in emerging markets,
Last month, Page, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, told reporters he had been contacted by the Senate Intelligence Committee and told to preserve records and communications.
Last July, in the thick of the U.S. presidential election campaign, Page raised eyebrows in U.S. political circles when he flew to Moscow and gave a lecture to students and businesspeople there.
In the lecture, he accused "Washington and other Western capitals" of impeding other nations' "potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption, and regime change" -- criticisms that echo those frequently voiced by the Kremlin.
At the time of Buryakov's arrest in 2015, Moscow lashed out, accusing the Americans of carrying out an "anti-Russian campaign" and "resort[ing] to their favorite practice of pumping up spy passions."
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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