FBI investigates Russian cultural exchange official accused of spying

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 October, 2013, 4:27am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 October, 2013, 9:42am

A Washington-based Russian cultural exchange official who is reportedly the target of an FBI investigation has denied he is a spy.

A source in Washington said the FBI was looking into whether Yury Zaytsev, head of a Russian government-run cultural exchange programme, tried to recruit young Americans as intelligence assets.

The probe was first reported by the magazine Mother Jones.

Zaytsev dismissed the accusations as an attempt to hurt ties. "It's a shame that echoes of the cold war are heard in Russian-American relations from time to time," Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying.

The FBI declined to comment. Evgeniy Khorishko from the Russian embassy in Washington said that "such horror stories smack of cold war times".

Mother Jones said Zaytsev's Russian Centre for Science and Culture paid for 130 Americans to visit Russia, including political aides and business leaders.

It also said Zaytsev or his associates had begun to build files including one on a participant who had been an adviser to an US state governor.

The magazine said FBI agents had been interviewing Americans who participated in the programme.