THE Russian spy-ring story has all the elements of a John le Carre thriller but that master of the medium would surely not have allowed one of the principal suspects to be released on bail in Cyprus pending hearing of an American extradition warrant and to disappear within a few hours.

Christopher Metsos must have found it hard to believe his good fortune when he handed over 20'000 euros in cash, left the Larnaca court and presumably lost no time in disappearing into the Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus. Surely an alerted US Embassy in Cyprus should immediately have ensured that Metsos was followed wherever he went?

For the rest, the story seems curiously dated with a beautiful spy, buried cash, secret meetings and, yes, invisible ink. It is obviously as embarrassing for the United States as for Russia and there will be a general hope that what seems like a relic of the Cold War will not set back recent improvements in US-Russian relations. As yet there is no suggestion that these “sleepers” infiltrated any sensitive US organisation. Among their tasks was reporting on the political scene in Washington - something that requires little more than an assiduous reading of the Washington Post and New York Times. An obvious question, of course, is whether the United States has any comparable operation going on in Russia.


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