US charges against Russians not for espionage: official

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Charges in the United States against Russian members of an alleged military exports ring were not related to espionage, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

"The charges shown to us by the US side are of a criminal character and do not involve any possible intelligence work," said deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, quoted by Interfax.

The US on Wednesday announced criminal charges against members of a Texas-based ring for allegedly procuring US-made high-tech electronics on behalf of the Russian government while posing as civilian manufacturers.

"Much in this story is not clear, of course it brings out serious concerns, and we expect that the rights and interests of arrested Russian citizens... will be met by the American authorities," he said.

"Serious questions arise over the fact that US authorities did not notify Russia's consulate offices about the fact of arrest of our compatriots," foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich added in a briefing.

He added that the Russian consul could only briefly speak to one of the individuals in court on Wednesday before the judge ordered the arrest of the group.

Embassy and consulate officials were trying to arrange a meeting with all arrested Russians, he said.

The alleged export network ran between 2008 and the present, by a Texas-based company called Arc Electronics, owned by Russian-American defendant Alexander Fishenko.

Fishenko was born in Soviet Kazakhstan and went to a Russian university before emigrating to the United States in 1994, according to the US prosecutors.

Another defendant Alexander Posobilov left Russia in 2001. Both are naturalised citizens, however it was unclear whether they held Russian passports as well.

The scheme involved smuggling commodities with a wide range of military applications, including radar and missile guidance systems, the US prosecutors said.

Three of the 11 charged individuals were currently in Russia, US authorities suspected. One of them was 44-year-old Sergei Klinov who runs the company Apex, which is accused of supplying the microelectronics smuggled without export licences to Russian security agencies.

Klinov on Thursday said he was 'saddened and confused' by the charges when contacted by the Echo of Moscow radio station.

Spy scandals have been a regular feature of US-Russian relations, with the most famous US arrest targeting a ring of ten sleeper agents, including tabloid sensation Anna Chapman, who were deported in a controversial 2010 spy swap.

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