Russia detains US citizen suspected of spying

State-run media in Moscow report Gene Spector pleaded guilty to espionage

A Russian and American flag fly next to the US embassy building in Moscow. AFP
Powered by automated translation

A Russian court has remanded a US citizen in custody on suspicion of spying, Russian media reported on Thursday, in the latest of a series of such cases.

Russian-born American Gene Spector has pleaded guilty and reached a deal with investigators, Interfax reported, adding he faces up to 20 years in prison.

The state-run Ria Novosti news agency reported the case had been classified and no more details were known.

In September last year, Mr Spector had already received a sentence of three-and-a-half years in prison for “corruption” in a case involving a former assistant to former Russian deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich.

A first conviction in 2021 in the Spector case was overturned on appeal and sent back for reconsideration in July 2022.

According to Tass, Mr Spector was born and raised in Russia before moving to the US where he obtained citizenship. He was general director of Russia's Medpolimerprom company group.

Several US citizens have in recent years been handed heavy sentences in Russia.

Washington accuses Moscow of seeking to use them as bargaining chips to obtain the release of Russians held in the US.

In December last year, US basketball player Brittney Griner was sentenced on drugs charges but freed shortly afterwards in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was held in the US.

The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained last March on spying charges during a reporting trip to the Urals. He denies the charges.

Gershkovich, who continued to report from Russia after the Kremlin launched its large-scale offensive in Ukraine, became the first western journalist to be arrested and accused of spying since the Soviet era.

Updated: August 17, 2023, 11:16 PM