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Russia retaliates, expels U.S. diplomat

Published Oct. 6, 2005

In its first diplomatic tiff with Washington since the Cold War's end, Moscow expelled a senior U.S. diplomat Monday.

The move was in retaliation for last week's ouster of a Russian envoy to the United States.

The Russian Foreign Ministry identified diplomat James L. Morris, listed as a counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, as the CIA station chief.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin expressed regret over the incident but said Moscow was forced to respond to the unjust expulsion Friday of Alexander Lysenko, the suspected Russian intelligence chief in Washington, in connection with the Ames espionage affair.

CIA official Aldrich H. Ames and his wife have been arrested, accused of spying for Moscow since 1985.

In an apparently unrelated move, Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismissed his domestic intelligence chief, Nikolai Golushko. Yeltsin's move heightened the impression of disarray in his administration after several of his bitter political rivals were freed from jail last week.

Morris is the first American to be declared persona non grata since Lt. Col. Daniel Francis Van Gundy III, an assistant military attache, was accused of espionage in 1989 and given 48 hours to leave the Soviet Union. The United States retaliated by expelling Sergei Malinin, a Soviet trade representative in New York.

In a similar tit-for-tat, Morris will be given seven days to leave the country, the same grace period the Clinton administration extended to Lysenko.

The administration signaled an end to the episode, however, protesting Morris' expulsion but deciding against further action in response.

"We do not expect to take any more diplomatic action," said White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers.

Although Lysenko arrived in Washington only last summer, the United States decided to expel him because "he was in a position to be responsible for the activities associated with the Ames case," State Department spokesman Mike McCurry said Friday.

The vague linkage irritated Russian officials, who suggested again that Washington has overreacted to the Ames case.

"Even if we assume Ames really worked for us, what has this to do with Lysenko, who arrived in the United States last summer?" said Yuri Kobaladze, spokesman for the Federal Intelligence Service, the agency that conducts foreign espionage.

In a closed briefing for Russian reporters, Yevgeny Primakov, head of the Federal Intelligence Service, said he is baffled by the fuss Washington has made over the Ames case.

Primakov suggested that the Clinton administration was using the Ames arrest to score domestic political points, to punish Russia for its independent stance on the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and to provide a convenient excuse for cutting American aid to Russia, according to journalists who attended.

The spy chief also reportedly found it peculiar that while Thomas Pickering, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, officially protested the Ames case, he has not inquired about the fate of 10 agents for the CIA who were supposedly exposed by Ames, then arrested and executed.

The meetings between Russian intelligence officials and a CIA team sent here to assess the damage done by Ames were unsatisfactory to both sides, Primakov said, adding that the Americans had demanded that Russia recall all its spies from the United States.

Primakov and other officials said the expulsions should not damage U.S.-Russian relations. He said he remains willing to cooperate with America to fight terrorism, drug-trafficking and other mutual threats.

Deputy Foreign Minister Vitaly Churkin also struck a conciliatory tone, saying that conflict between Russia and the West is inevitable but can be resolved provided problems are not over-dramatized.

"Even in the past two years of extremely fruitful cooperation, we have not been able to shed the luggage of the past entirely," Churkin said.

"And we have not always been able to shed the psychological attitudes ingrained in our minds during the long years of confrontation and hostility. But the situation has completely changed."

_ Information from the Washington Post and Associated Press was used in this report.