Alleged Russian spy vanishes in Cyprus

Police in Cyprus are searching for an alleged Russian spy wanted in the U.S. who vanished after being released on bail in the Mediterranean island nation.

Russia says allegations won't affect ties with U.S.

Police in Cyprus are searching for an alleged Russian spy wanted in the United States who vanished after being released on bail in the Mediterranean island nation.

Christopher Robert Metsos, 54, who says he is Canadian, failed to report to police in the southern coastal town of Larnaca between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time (11 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET) Wednesday according to the terms of release imposed on him Tuesday by a Cypriot court, said police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos.

Women pass outside of the hotel where suspected spy Christopher Robert Metsos was believed to have been staying in the southern coastal resort of Larnaca, Cyprus, on Wednesday. ((Petros Karadjias/Associated Press))
He said a search failed to locate Metsos and authorities plan to issue a warrant for his arrest for breaching the terms of his release.

Andreas Pastellides, one of two lawyers representing Metsos in Cyprus, told the Associated Press that they'd had no contact with their client since Tuesday afternoon.

Pastellides said Metsos did not show up for a meeting he was supposed to have Wednesday afternoon in Larnaca with Pastellides' partner, Michalis Papathanasiou.

Dean Boyd, spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department's national security division, said he was aware of the media reports regarding Metsos, but is "going to have to defer to Cyprus authorities for comment."

Metsos had been staying at a hotel in Larnaca.

Metsos could have slipped into the Turkish Cypriot north of the island, which is recognized by no country other than Turkey and has no formal extradition treaties with other countries. The north is linked to Turkey by an airport and ferry services. There are no direct air links to any country other than Turkey, but a ferry service runs between the northern port of Famagusta and Latakia, Syria.

Relations unaffected: foreign ministry

Russia's foreign ministry said Wednesday it expects a developing spy scandal won't affect relations with the United States.

Russia's spy agencies

  • The Foreign Intelligence Service, known under its Russian acronym SVR, oversees foreign intelligence. It was founded just before the collapse of the Soviet Union when the KGB was split into several successor agencies. The SVR inherited the personnel and structures of the KGB's First Main Directorate, in charge of spying abroad.
  • The Federal Security Service, or FSB, is another KGB successor. While the SVR's tasks are comparable with the CIA, FSB's main mission of catching foreign spies and combating organized crime can be compared with that of the FBI. The FSB's unwritten tasks include shadowing the opposition to the Kremlin.
  • The GRU, the Russian acronym for the Main Intelligence Directorate, is Russia's military intelligence. Its name and mission have remained unchanged since Soviet times. The agency's main task is spying abroad for military secrets, particularly information on weapons and military industries. It also controls highly trained teams of commandos.

Source: Associated Press

"We expect that the incident involving the arrest in the United States of a group of people suspected of spying for Russia will not negatively affect Russian-U.S. relations," said an unnamed Russian official quoted by the Interfax news agency.

Russia's foreign ministry said it concurs with comments made by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs when he said Tuesday that the arrest of 11 people alleged to be Russian spies living in the U.S. was a law enforcement issue that won't have any political fallout.

Moscow has admitted that some of the accused are Russian citizens. On Tuesday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also downplayed the possibility of political fallout as he met with former U.S. president Bill Clinton.

Four of the those arrested claim to be Canadian, and the FBI said one of the accused assumed the identity of an infant who died in Montreal more than 40 years ago.

The FBI alleges those arrested were trying to breach policy-making circles, presumably with the end goal of influencing them and sending intelligence back to Russia.

Intelligence specialist David Harris said it's safe to assume spies are trying to do the same thing in Canada.

"We know from Canada's own history we've been penetrated by such organizations in the past," he said.

Harris added that Russia is not the only concern.

"In these days, when we have a good deal of extremism out there and have had imposed on us a global war of sorts, it's useful to remember that nation states, including hostile ones, can have very close relationships with terrorist organizations that can target us," he said.