World Bulletin/News Desk
Russian citizens are being put under moral and psychological pressure to admit belonging to a network the United States says intended to acquire U.S.-made technology for Russia's military and spy agencies, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday.
Moscow has dismissed talk of a new spy scandal involving its former Cold War-foe, saying the case brought by the United States is purely criminal and had "nothing to do with the work of the secret services".
U.S. federal prosecutors earlier this month charged 11 alleged participants with operating such a network.
"Russian diplomats along with lawyers will seek to...stop the psychological and moral pressure that is being put on Russians with the aim of persuading them to 'voluntarily' confess," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich earlier said Washington had informed Moscow that charges were criminal and unrelated to espionage but that U.S. authorities had "not properly informed" Russia of the arrest of its citizens.
Russia said it was deeply concerned about the case which could further roil ties between Russia and the United States, already strained by the closure of a U.S. aid agency in Moscow and threats by Russia to end cooperation on an agreement concerning nuclear and chemical weapons.
A U.S. official previously said Alexander Fishenko, a Kazakhstan native who emigrated to the United States in 1994 and has frequently travelled to Russia, had been charged with operating as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.
The Kremlin recently closed the U.S. Agency for International Development in Russia, which critics say is a pretext for clamping down on pro-democracy organisations funded by the agency.