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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Intruder's Visit Shocks American Embassy

A Russian man in military fatigues entered the U.S. Embassy compound in Moscow earlier this month and managed to break into the home of the top-ranking U.S. diplomat, where he spent the night. He was discovered the next morning naked in the envoy's shower, according to diplomatic sources at the embassy.


The man, who was detained by U.S. Embassy security personnel, identified himself as a Russian Army deserter. After a brief interrogation, the Americans turned him over to Russian authorities.


The incident prompted an intensive security review of the compound, the sources said.


Various Russian security services, including the successor agency to the KGB secret police, deny knowing anything about the intruder.


The incident, which took place over the weekend of March 8 to 9, is the talk of the huge American diplomatic community in Moscow and a source of intense embarrassment for the embassy security staff and others in the compound.


Sources say there is no indication the intruder gained access to the more sensitive chancery building, where diplomatic business is conducted and highly classified materials are located. Nor is there any known evidence to suggest the man was spying.


But it is a source of mystification at the embassy that of the 120 residential units located in the compound, the man chose to enter Townhouse No. 1, home of the American charg? d'affaires in Moscow, John Tefft, and his wife, Mariella. As charg? d'affaires, Tefft is in effect the acting ambassador because U.S. President Bill Clinton has not yet appointed a successor to the previous ambassador, Thomas Pickering.


"We don't want to make it into a bigger thing than it already is," said one American diplomat. "It's not like there was a document breach."


The embassy issued a terse statement that said, in part: "The intruder hid himself inside one of our residential units overnight. He was detected the following day by one of the residents who immediately notified the mission security force. The intruder was unarmed and at no point threatened anyone."


Beyond that official statement, no one at the embassy would speak about the episode in an official capacity.


But according to rumors that have spread quickly among diplomats and their families, the intruder was discovered by Mariella Tefft, who either heard or saw him showering in the family's bathroom on the morning of Sunday, March 9. He also was said to have helped himself to food in the Teffts' refrigerator at some point during his overnight stay in the red-brick town house.


Although there is speculation that the intruder may have scaled the walls, it is not clear precisely how the man gained entrance to the embassy compound and how a Russian wearing military fatigues avoided detection during the time he spent there. One source said he picked up a broom at one point and pretended to be a maintenance man.


Nor is it known how the man entered Townhouse No. 1, and how he was able to spend the night there without being discovered. Townhouse No. 1 is the first and most elegant in a long row of suburban-style townhouses that run alongside the part of the embassy compound that includes a cafeteria, administrative offices, workshops, a gymnasium, swimming pool, convenience store and video shop.


As home to what is ordinarily -- when an ambassador is present -- the second-ranking American diplomat in Moscow, Townhouse No. 1 is the scene of frequent receptions, dinners and cocktail parties. It has a spacious living room and handsome dining room on the ground floor and living quarters upstairs. Official diplomatic work would not usually be conducted from there but from the much more heavily protected chancery offices, a short walk away.


Efforts to find out more from Russian authorities about the intruder's identity and his fate were fruitless.