Decrying what it called a return to Cold War-style posturing, Russia today condemned the announcement by US authorities of the arrests in New York and Boston of 10 alleged Russian spies, and some officials suggested that law enforcement agencies were acting to undercut relations between Moscow and Washington.
"These actions have no justification and pursue unseemly goals," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in a statement. "We don't understand the reasons that prompted the US Department of Justice to make a public statement in the spirit of spy stories from the Cold War-era."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking in Jerusalem after talks with his Israeli counterpart, said that Russia expected an explanation from the United States over the arrests.
"They have not explained to us what is going on. I hope they will," Lavrov said in comments reported by the Russian RIA Novosti news agency. "The only thing I can say is that the timing was chosen with particular elegance."
“It is deeply regrettable that such things happen in the backdrop of a ‘reset' in Russian-American relations declared by the US Administration,” the Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.
The announcement of the arrest came just days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ate a hamburger with President Obama during a warm summit meeting in Washington.
A Russian poll published before news of the arrests broke Monday suggested that Russians have a higher opinion of the United States than they have had in years. Fifty-nine percent of Russians have a “good” or “very good” opinion of the United States, up from 46 percent a year ago and 22 percent in September 2008, according to the VTsIOM polling agency.
Gennady Gudkov, the deputy head of the Security Committee of the Russian lower house of parliament, told Ekho Moskvy radio that said the scandal might have been orchestrated by “anti-Obama forces" seeking to reverse the US president's policy of a "reset" in US-Russian relations.
The official newspaper of the Russian government, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, went further, saying that the arrest of the alleged spies had the look of a political show.
"Exactly how much damage was caused by their activity was not clear from the official statements of the Justice Ministry," the paper said. "However, the enthusiasm with which the American mass media latched onto this story by turning it into a ‘spy scandal’ speaks of the orchestration of these events."
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