The Russian government-owned news agency Tass worked with the country’s foreign intelligence service to gather economic information in New York, according to U.S. officials.
On Monday, federal prosecutors charged three Russians with being undeclared officers of the SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence service, and a criminal complaint said an unidentified Russian news organization collaborated with them.
U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said the news organization was Tass, which frequently provided cover for KGB agents during the Cold War. A message left with Tass’s New York office was not immediately returned.
In the complaint, the FBI accused Evgeny Buryakov of entering the United States in 2010 under a nonofficial cover. He is being held without bond in New York. Buryakov’s SVR handlers, Igor Sporyshev, a Russian trade representative, and Victor Podobnyy, an attache at the Russian mission to the United Nations, were also charged. The pair, who had diplomatic immunity, had already left the country when the FBI moved in to arrest Buryakov.
In a statement, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich denounced the arrest and allegations.
“The consequences of such actions aggravate the bilateral atmosphere and undermine the prospects for our cooperation, and will be on the conscience of their initiators,” he said.
As part of the FBI’s criminal complaint, the bureau revealed that it had bugged an office in New York that the SVR officers believed was secure, capturing incriminating and sometimes embarrassing conversations.
In the complaint, the FBI detailed how the spies crafted questions on behalf of Russian intelligence for Tass to pose in New York, according to a May 2013 exchange between Sporyshev and Buryakov, whose cover was a job with a Russian state-owned bank in Manhattan. The Daily Beast first reported on Tass’s role.
Tass “wants very much, I don’t know how it came down from the top, they need three questions with regard to the New York Exchange. What would be interesting to us? Can you help write something?” Sporyshev asks
“It’s a difficult question . . . I need to think,” Buryakov responds. He then asks for 15 minutes to come up with some questions, which he later provided to Sporyshev.
They included how the New York Stock Exchange used exchange-traded funds; potential limits on the use of high-frequency, automated trading systems; and products tied to the Russian Federation.
It is unclear from the complaint to whom Tass planned to pose the questions.
Karoun Demirjian in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed to this report.