Russia accuses US of spying at country’s military areas


Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused on Thursday the U.S. military diplomats of trying to get to the Russian defense installations “on a regular basis”.

The latest attempt took place on Oct. 14, when three U.S. attaches tried to get to a shooting ground near northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk, but they were denied access as they had not requested a special permission to visit the area, Zakharova said, speaking at a news conference in Moscow.

Zakharova reminded a notification regime for long-distance trips, acting for Russian and U.S. diplomats reciprocally, suggesting the necessity to notify about movements for distances exceeding 25 miles (41 kilometres).

“When the American officers arrived there [to the shooting ground], they were stopped at the train station by a police patrol,” she said and added: “They were told that they were in a restricted area and, were asked to leave as they had no special permission because they had not requested it”.

“Nobody detained them, in Severodvinsk [the closest town to the area], they got on the car and drove towards Moscow,” said Zakharova.

“The situation is quite routine, American military diplomats on a regular basis try to penetrate into closed areas and ignore the requirements of notification,” she added.

The spokeswoman also commented on the allegations that Russia captures the U.S. citizens within its borders with the purpose of exchanging them for the Russians imprisoned in the U.S., and called them “false stories”.

She said currently 22 U.S. nationals are imprisoned in Russia for fraud, drug smuggling, robbery, and rape. One citizen, Paul Whelan, “was caught at the act” while performing intelligence-gathering operation, she said.

“The fact that he was arrested for spying is not disputed by the U.S. in our working contacts, while in public statements they say what they have to say,” the spokeswoman said.

Turning to the Venezuelan crisis, Zakharova said Moscow sees some ease of the tensions in the country. The government and the moderate opposition try to find solutions for the existing problems, she said.

Referring to the information about “hundreds of Russian servicemen and considerable number of weapons” in the country, the spokeswoman said it was “not consistent with reality,” that it resembles “frontal anti-Russian and anti-Latin American propaganda”.

“The presence of Russian servicemen on the territory of Venezuela is carried out in strict accordance with intergovernmental agreements,” she said, adding that Moscow sees new U.S. sanctions against Cuba as a punishment for the support to Venezuela.

“Sanctions against Cuba for supporting Venezuela, against the pharmaceutical industry, are related to the production of medicines, and endanger the lives of thousands of people,” she said.

Since the beginning of the year, Venezuela has been embroiled in political unrest as President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido engage in a power battle.

The U.S. administration has been focusing on economic and diplomatic pressure against Maduro, including imposing sanctions against him, his top officials and several governmental departments as it seeks to increase pressure on Caracas. The U.S. froze all assets of the Venezuelan government earlier in August.

Washington no longer recognizes Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela, instead throws its weight behind opposition leader Guaido whom it recognizes as the country’s interim president.
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