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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Federal Agents Peddled Uranium, Paper Says

A feisty Moscow daily newspaper reported Tuesday that two Federal Counterintelligence Service officers had been arrested for trying to sell uranium -- and stood by the report, despite vehement denials from the service and threats of legal action.


Pavel Gusev, editor of Moscow's most popular daily Moskovsky Komsomolets, charged that the Federal Counterintelligence Service had learned about the upcoming publication through agents in the publishing house and then denied it Monday night on state television, which Gusev said was "controlled by the former KGB."


The Tuesday edition of Moskovsky Komsomolets ran a three-paragraph front-page story headlined "Uranium Mafia Penetrated FCS," charging that two Federal Counterintelligence Service agents were arrested last Wednesday by their own service for possession of about two kilograms of the highly radioactive metal which they had tried to sell.


"We are prepared to sue the newspaper," said Vladimir Tomarovsky, deputy head of the FCS's public relations department. "We believe it's possible that that story is a deliberate provocation."


He said the "hasty" publication of the story was suspect in the light of Wednesday's scheduled meeting between President Boris Yeltsin and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, at which nuclear smuggling will be discussed.


Tomarovsky, nevertheless, confirmed that three men had been arrested by his service last week for trying to sell "radioactive materials." He said two of the suspects were retired servicemen and one was still on active army duty, but he emphasized that none of them had any relation whatsoever to the FCS.


Gusev, however, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that the newspaper's information was "absolutely true."


He added that the paper's Wednesday edition will specify that there were two suspects, one an FCS captain, the other a warrant officer dismissed from the service only months ago.


"So let them sue," Gusev said. "We've got all the proof."


He declined to name the source of his information, but said the newspaper intended to publish it shortly.


The story Tuesday said the reporter, Dmitry Kholodov, had "failed to have the information confirmed by the FCS, but it was confirmed through other channels."


"They always cite 'channels' and 'sources' when they've got nothing to say," the FCS's Tomarovsky said. "I call that sensation-chasing and an unhealthy attitude to our service."


Moskovsky Komsomolets has a reputation for sensationalism and its reports often prove flamboyantly exaggerated, but the daily is also renowned for having good sources in the police and the Moscow government.


Tomarovsky was evasive when asked how his service had learned Monday that the story was about to be published.


"I will refrain from commenting on that," he said.


Sergei Dorenko, the host on the Russian Broadcasting Company's Podrobnosti (Details) news program, said Tuesday night that Moskovsky Komsomolets was about to run an erroneous story on the uranium arrests.


"I hope my colleagues won't be offended if we offer a version that differs from theirs," he said and proceeded to recite the FCS version of the events.


The producer of Monday's program would not say on the record where Podrobnosti obtained the information.


Gusev said the FCS retained the old KGB's network of agents in the media.