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  Russia Military Attache Leaves Japan

By Gary Schaefer
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, Sept. 9, 2000; 7:32 a.m. EDT

TOKYO –– A Russian Embassy official suspected of spying on Japan left the country Saturday, a day after the arrest of a Japanese naval officer who allegedly gave him classified documents.

Television news showed Victor Bogatenkov, a 44-year-old military attache, pushing his way through a crowd of reporters at Tokyo's main international airport to board an Aeroflot flight to Moscow. He was accompanied by several bodyguards.

Police believe Bogatenkov bought military secrets from a Japanese naval officer working as a researcher in the country's National Institute for Defense Studies.

The naval officer, 38-year-old Lt. Cmdr. Shigehiro Hagisaki, was taken into custody Thursday night when police found him at a Tokyo restaurant with Bogatenkov.

The Russian attache refused to be questioned by police, citing his diplomatic immunity.

Spokesmen for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, which is investigating the case, and Japan's Defense Agency both declined to say whether Bogatenkov had been asked to leave by the Japanese government. Telephone calls to Japan's Foreign Ministry went unanswered.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov told the Interfax news agency that Bogatenkov had been scheduled to return home because his term in Japan was ending.

Losyukov said it was not clear if Russia would respond by expelling a Japanese diplomat, adding that the Russian government would act "very carefully – consider all the circumstances and adopt a balanced decision, taking into account the context of Russian-Japanese relations, among other things."

According to Japanese media reports, police suspect Bogatenkov was a Russian intelligence officer who wined and dined the Japanese naval officer in an attempt to gain information about the activities of U.S. naval units stationed in Japan.

Police raids on the officer's home and workplace turned up classified documents referring to the activities of U.S. naval forces in Japan, including U.S. submarines, the Sankei newspaper said.

Separately, Japan's Mainichi newspaper reported Saturday that Russian Embassy officials didn't respond to invitations to observe weekend military maneuvers held by Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force in western Japan.

Foreign military attaches stationed in Japan are customarily invited to the once-a-year live-fire drill, which is also open to the public.

© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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