Russian Cultural Center head investigated for alleged spy recruitment

Oct. 24, 2013 at 9:12 AM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- The FBI is investigating the director of the Russian Cultural Center in Washington for allegedly trying to recruit U.S. citizens as spies, officials said.

The agency has been interviewing some of 130 U.S. graduate students, business executives, political aides and non-profit workers who received all-expenses-paid trips to Russia through the cultural center to determine if its leader, Yury Zaytsev, is involved in spy recruitment, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Law enforcement officials wouldn't say if Zaytsev was successful in his alleged attempts, the newspaper said.

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy, Yevgeny Khorishko, said the allegations are an attempt to derail the Russian-U.S. program of cultural exchange and undermine trust.

"All such 'scary tales' very much resemble Cold War era," he said. "It is a blatant attempt to distort and to blacken activities of the Russian Cultural Center, which are aimed at developing trust and cooperation between our peoples and countries."

The Russian Cultural Center provides language lessons and cultural programs in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington. Zaytsev also is head of the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Washington, the Post said.

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