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FBI probing whether Russia used cultural exchanges to recruit young American spies

A national intelligence community official says the FBI is looking into whether the U.S.-based director of a Russian government-run cultural exchange program is a spy who tried to recruit young Americans as intelligence assets. The Russian Cultural Centre is pictured above. Facebook

WASHINGTON – The FBI is looking into whether the U.S.-based director of a Russian government-run cultural exchange program is a spy who tried to recruit young Americans as intelligence assets, a national intelligence community official said Wednesday.

The magazine Mother Jones, which first reported the probe, said the organization run by Yury Zaytsev has footed the bill for about 130 Americans to visit Russia. The 130 include political aides, non-profit advocates and business executives. The Russian Center for Science and Culture offers language lessons and cultural programming.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe was still underway.

An FBI spokesman, Jason Pack, declined to comment.

Mother Jones said Zaytsev or his associates had begun to build files including one on a participant who had been an adviser to an American governor.

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The magazine said FBI agents have been interviewing Americans who participated in the program. It added that Zaytsev did not travel on the exchange trips he helped arrange, and that his contact with the Americans who went on these trips was limited.

Zaytsev does not have a Washington phone listing. The centre where he works referred calls for comment to the Russian Embassy, which did not answer the phone late Wednesday.

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