Russia claims it has detained a CIA agent in Moscow who was was trying to recruit an officer of the Russian secret service.
Russia's counterintelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, announced through its public relations center that the person detained was Ryan Christopher Fogle, the third secretary of the political section of the American embassy in Moscow.
Fogle was quickly declared a persona non grata in Russia and expelled from the country.
According to the BBC, the FSB said:
"FSB counter-intelligence agents detained a CIA staff member who had been working under the cover of third political secretary of the US embassy in Moscow."
Fogle was said to be operating under the guise of a career diplomat. He was carrying special technical equipment, disguises, printed instructions for the Russian citizen being recruited and a large sum of money when detained, the Associated Press cited the FSB as saying.
He was also said to be carrying a letter for recruits that spelled out how to open a Gmail e-mail account and how much money they could earn by feeding information to the US.
According to a translation by RT, the letter apparently reads:
"This is a down-payment from someone who is very impressed with your professionalism and who would greatly appreciate your cooperation in the future. Your security means a lot to us. This is why we chose this way of contacting you. we will continue to make sure our correspondent remains safe and secret."
Russian online media showed photos, credited to the FSB, of Fogle sitting handcuffed at a desk in what was said to be the FSB office. Also making the rounds was an image of what appears to be Fogle's embassy ID card, and his Russian diplomatic card.
Russia Today also published a photo purporting to be of Fogle, wearing a blonde wig, face down on the ground with another man restraining him.
The White House referred questions on the incident to the State Department. CBS News reported that there was no immediate response from the State Department and the CIA declined to comment.
The BBC's Moscow correspondent Daniel Sandford tweeted:
US State Dept spokesman "We can confirm that an officer at our US Embassy in Moscow was briefly detained and was released."
— Daniel Sandford (@BBCDanielS) May 14, 2013
The Washington Post noted that there are inconsistencies in the case that bring up doubts about the story, including the "ham-fisted" letter allegedly carried by Fogle and the timing of the news breaking.
The website of the American embassy in Russia says its political section is engaged in "bringing to the attention of the Russian government the US position on the issues of foreign policy and security."
Its other task is to "inform Washington about the main provisions of the foreign and defense policy of Russia."
Moscow and Washington had said they wanted to step up security cooperation after the Boston Marathon bombing in April. Last week, they announced plans to try to organize an international conference to promote an end to Syria's civil war.