02/02/2011

Diplomat 'Spying' Expulsion Prompts Row

A Russian diplomat has been expelled from the country's embassy in the Irish Republic after its agents were identified using stolen Irish passports.

According to a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs last night, a Garda Síochána report into a Russian espionage operation in the US found Russian intelligence services manufacturing passports using the details of those of genuine Irish citizens.

The statement said there was an "entirely persuasive picture of Russian intelligence service involvement".

However, this morning, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov has threatened that Moscow would retaliate to the move, saying: "This groundless and unfriendly act will not go without a corresponding reaction."

The investigation by Garda was initiated after a discovery by the US's FBI, who swept a Russian spy ring of 11 men and women posing as American civilians, including the high profile 28-year-old Anna Chapman.

In October last year, it emerged Ms Chapman had used the identity of a volunteer for Irish charity To Russia With Love, Catherine Sherry. The charity said it was a unique incident and nothing like it had ever happened before.

"We do not know where or when the passport became compromised, to the best of our knowledge our systems have never been tampered with in any way."

To Russia With Love is am Irish Charity that has been working in Russia for over 12 years on behalf of Russian orphans.
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According to the Press Association, another victim was Eunan Gerard Doherty, a firefighter from Carndonagh, Co Donegal, who was interviewed after his passport details had been implicated. A secret agent also known as Richard Murphy was to collect false travel documents in Mr Doherty's name in Rome to covertly get into Russia. His wife Maureen's identity was also implicated.

The Department of foreign affairs spokesman said the Government had considered the findings of the Garda report and agreed to a course of action proposed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs, David Roche, met with Russian Ambassador Vladimir Rakhmanin yesterday afternoon to inform him face to face that the activities of Russian intelligence services were "completely unacceptable" and not the behaviour the Government expected from a country "with which we have friendly relations".

The Ambassador was also told that the diplomatic status of a named member of his staff was to be terminated.

In June last year, Ireland also ordered the removal of an Israeli diplomat from the country's embassy in Dublin after its operatives were found using forged Irish passports during the state murder of a Hamas official in Dubai.

Micheál Martin, the then Foreign Minister, said after a Gardaí investigation into the incident, that eight Irish passports were used by suspected Israeli secret service operatives, known as the Mossad, during the assassination.

(DW)

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