Minsk TV Tells of U.S. Spy Ring

MINSK -- A report on state television in Belarus accused the U.S. Embassy of setting up a spy ring, the latest salvo in disputes that have led to unfriendly relations between the United States and the former Soviet republic's authoritarian government.

The report, aired late Sunday, said 10 Belarussians were recruited to collect information for use against Belarus and had turned it over to the FBI. It said they were provided with an apartment near the embassy and equipped with cameras, binoculars and other items.

The U.S. Embassy declined immediate comment, and there was no confirmation from police and security services, which also declined to comment.

Independent analyst Yaroslav Romanchuk dismissed the report as clunky Soviet-style propaganda. "In accordance with the old Soviet tradition, the Belarussian KGB finds U.S., Polish and Latvian spies when [the government's] relations with these countries are taking a sharp turn for the worse," he said.

The state television report did not identify sources and did not say what kind of information the alleged spies were supposed to be collecting. It showed footage of a man, seemingly under questioning, saying his duties included "revealing potential terrorists and spotting enemy surveillance." It also showed two women, their heads seen from behind, who said they had met with FBI representatives who showed them their badges and told them not to tell anybody about the meeting.