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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB Brings Spy Mania to Television

Indulging its own version of spy mania, the Federal Security Services provided tapes to RTR state television purporting to show a U.S. intelligence officer at work in Moscow.

The tapes, broadcast Tuesday night, included one meeting at a Moscow restaurant and a couple of phone calls to the U.S. naval attach?. One call, the FSB said, was from Igor Sutyagin, a researcher now in jail facing charges of revealing state secrets.

But the naval attach?, Captain Robert Brannon, scoffed at the report. And Sutyagin's lawyer said Wednesday that the researcher has already been cleared of allegations that he had spied for Brannon.

RTR aired an audiotape of what it said was a conversation between Brannon and Sutyagin in which they discussed what kind of armaments were aboard the Russian intelligence ship Liman sent to the Balkans during the 1999 NATO military campaign.

Brannon was interested in whether the Liman's crew was equipped with shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles. Sutyagin said it was not. On the tape, Brannon asked whether Sutyagin had received his fax, and Sutyagin answered that he had, adding that he was much more pleased by the envelope Brannon had sent.

The contents of the envelope were not disclosed, but a Russian commentator said that when Brannon's name had been mentioned in Sutyagin's trial, the U.S. official left the country abruptly. He later returned.

An FSB official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday the footage proves the security service has collected solid evidence to prosecute Sutyagin.

Sutyagin, a researcher at the U.S.A. and Canada Institute, was charged in 1999 with revealing state secrets. Sutyagin's defense has insisted he never had access to classified materials.

One of Sutyagin's lawyers, Anna Savitskaya, said during the pre-trial investigation that Sutyagin was charged with disclosing state secrets to Brennon, but the charges were dropped as "unfounded."

"The investigation established that the information Sutyagin was providing to Brennon were not a state secret," she said by telephone, adding she was shocked by RTR's reporting. Savitskaya accused the FSB of "exerting pressure on public opinion."

The RTR report opened with a man standing at a telephone booth near the U.S. Embassy placing a call to Brannon. The caller was identified as convicted hijacker Anatoly Popov.

The video documented how a meeting was arranged at the Zoo restaurant near the embassy. While Brannon paced the sidewalks near the restaurant, two unidentified U.S. military attach?s are shown meeting with Popov and paying him $400 for a maritime chart of the Yenisei River delta area in Northern Siberian. Popov also promised to provide a map of "minefields."

In the broadcast, Popov said he later turned himself in, fearing arrest.

In an interview, Brannon said he remembered receiving an unsolicited phone call like the one shown on television but refused to meet with the man. He insisted that neither he nor any other embassy official paid anyone $400 for secret information.

"He has some of his facts right," Brannon said of the RTR journalist. "But the rest of this stuff is very strange and pulled from the clouds somehow."

Brannon, stationed in Moscow since 1998, said he was not among the four diplomats designated for expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday. The only name to surface publicly was of Paul Hollingsworth, a first secretary at the embassy.

(NYT, WP, MT)