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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Retaliates, Expelling U.S. Diplomat

Russia expelled a U.S. diplomat Monday in retaliation for Washington's expulsion last week of a Russian intelligence officer accused of involvement in the Ames spy scandal.

The Russian news media identified the American diplomat as James L. Morris, a counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The exchange of expulsions was reminiscent of the Cold War and threatened to chill U.S.-Russian relations, at least for a while.

According to a report on CNN, Morris was the CIA's station chief in Moscow. The report could into be independently confirmed.

"We have received a request from the Russian government to withdraw a senior official of the embassy," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement that did not mention Morris by name. "We expressed our great regret and concern over this action."

U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who likewise did not identify the diplomat, said that the official had been given the same time to leave -- seven days -- as Alexander Lysenko, a Russian diplomat declared persona non grata by Washington on Friday.

The United States had expected the expulsion of an American from Moscow since Lysenko, also a counselor and the chief of Russia's intelligence station in Washington, was ordered to leave the United States.

U.S. officials have said that Lysenko "was in a position to be responsible" for CIA officer Aldrich Ames and his wife, Rosario, who were charged last week with spying for Moscow since 1985.

But Russian officials objected to the expulsion of Lysenko, the first KGB "rezident," or station chief, to be officially introduced in Washington as an intelligence officer.

"Even if we assume that Ames really worked for us, what has this to do with Lysenko, who arrived in the United States last summer?" said Yury Kobaladze, spokesman for the Foreign Intelligence Service, one of the successor organizations to the Soviet KGB.

Ames, who once headed the CIA branch in charge of Soviet counterintelligence, allegedly sold secrets to the Soviet Union and later Russia for more than $1.5 million. U.S. officials believe the information he gave Moscow may have led to the execution of as many as 10 Russians who were spying for the United States.

President Boris Yeltsin has not commented publicly on the spy scandal.

"The president does not get mixed up in spying," his spokesman, Anatoly Krasikov, told The Associated Press.

In a separate development Monday, Yeltsin fired the head of the Federal Counterintelligence Service, another agency that was formed when the KGB was reorganized last year.

But Itar-Tass said the firing of Nikolai Golushko stemmed from his failure to prevent the release of Yeltsin's hard-line enemies over the weekend, rather than from the Ames scandal.

The spy affair continued to make waves in the United States over the weekend, with prominent Republicans attacking President Bill Clinton's policies on Russia as naive.

Former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, who is expected to seek the 1996 Republican nomination for the White House, accused Clinton of being soft in response to the Ames case.

"I think a traditional kind of response, that we've had in the past when we've caught them involved in espionage, would have been appropriate -- to send a lot of them home," Cheney said Sunday on the NBC News program "Meet the Press."

Ever since Russian reformers were routed in parliamentary elections in December, the West has faced a more assertive foreign policy in the Kremlin and a slowdown in Russian economic reforms. Relations have also been tested over President Boris Yeltsin's veto of NATO membership for members of the former Soviet bloc and his assertion of Russian interests in Bosnia.

Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, advocated making tough-minded business and political deals with Russia that are in U.S. interests, including nuclear nonproliferation.

"But we have to get over the idea, I think, that this is a partnership," he said on NBC. "This is a tough rivalry. And that is an important distinction to make."

Senator Mitch McConnell, the senior Republican on the Senate subcommittee that oversees Russian aid and a co-sponsor of this year's $2.5 billion aid package, said it was time to "take a good hard look" at whether it made sense to send U.S. taxpayer aid to Russia.

"Maybe that money would be better spent in some of these countries under Russian dominance," the Kentucky lawmaker said on television.

Asked whether he thought Clinton had been "soft" on Russia in reply to the Ames case, Cheney replied: "I think that's a fair statement."

The Russian authorities have rejected any suggestion that they should make amends for the Ames spy case or that it should be allowed to undermine relations or aid.

(AP, Reuters)