Russian news agency Tass is being implicated in helping a group of Russian spies–arrested this week–make public financial information they gathered while posing as bankers in New York.
Both CNBC and The Daily Beast are reporting that Tass, a Russian state-owned news agency, is the news organization in question in the criminal complaint against Yevgeny Buryakov, the only one of three alleged spies arrested in Manhattan (the other two, Victor Podobnyy and Igor Sporyshev, are believed to have returned to Russia).
As The Daily Beast explains, the spies would gather intelligence and then use financial reporters from Tass to ask questions that would wheedle out the information they needed regarding certain corporations. In many instances, the report alleges, the spies would write the questions themselves to be sent to reporters. This, the complaint alleges, was done “at the request of the news organization.”
Buryakov, who was working undercover as a banker, was requested by a Russian news agency, to send questions: “[the agency] wants very much, I don’t know how it came down from the top, but they need three questions with regard to the New York Exchange.”
The official complaint accuses the men of conspiring “to gather intelligence on, among other subjects, potential United States sanctions against Russian banks and the United States’ efforts to develop alternative energy resources.” The complaint details a number of ways in which the men communicated via code— using tickets to shows, hats, and other seemingly innocent articles to communicate with each other. Buryakov is believed to have also attempted to recruit Americans into his plot. The two men believed to have returned to Russia, the Russian government claims, are protected by diplomatic immunity.
The Russian government has responded by denying all charges. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich accused the United States of attempting “to launch another round in its anti-Russian campaign” and called for America to “stop to the string of provocations against Russian representatives unleashed by U.S. secret services, and on immediate consular access to Buryakov, on the strict observance of the Russian citizen’s rights and on his release.” The statement was carried by Tass.
Business Insider notes that Tass has officially refused to comment on the matter, upon being contacted for comment. They have nonetheless run articles on the affair, quoting Lukashevich as demanding that Russian officials be allowed contact with Buryakov and noting in another article that Buryakov had been denied bail.