HOW American sanctions might bite on Russian banks is a matter of great interest to the Kremlin. So Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, asked one of its undercover agents in New York to find out, prosecutors claim. Evgeny Buryakov was outwardly an executive at Vnesheconombank, a Russian state-owned financial agency. But in real life he was allegedly “Zhenya”—working closely with two Russian intelligence officers who were working undercover as diplomats, also in New York.
Mr Buryakov’s mission involved collecting economic intelligence and spotting potential sources. It has ended in disaster. On January 26th news broke of his arrest by the FBI. He faces trial and, if found guilty, up to 15 years in prison. His alleged colleagues have left America.
As always with spy stories, questions outnumber answers. What gave the FBI their first clue? Was it good surveillance, a cryptographic breakthrough, success in penetrating the Russian spy service or sloppy tradecraft by Vladimir Putin’s snoops? The FBI’s evidence suggests a lengthy period of observation. The three men communicated with brief...Continue reading