MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's foreign ministry on Tuesday dismissed charges by the U.S. against three men for their alleged involvement in a Russian spy ring operating in New York City.
The U.S. government on Monday announced criminal charges against three men who are accused of conspiring to gather economic intelligence on behalf of Russia, including information about U.S. sanctions against the country.
Prosecutors said Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy were trying to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources.
Russia's foreign ministry dismissed the claims and said the United States had not provided any evidence to support the allegations against Buryakov and two other men.
"One gets the impression that the U.S. government has decided to use a favored practice of unleashing passions over espionage," the spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich, said in a statement, demanding the release of Buryakov.
The investigation, which follows the 2010 expulsion of several Russians as spies from the United States and an eventual spy swap, comes with ties between Russia and the United States at their worst since the Cold War over the conflict in Ukraine.
Washington has already imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia for annexing the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and backing pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, targeting Russian financial and energy companies.
"Russian-American ties are going through an extremely complicated period due to Washington's hostilities," said Lukashevich.
Monday's charges stem from Buryakov's alleged covert work on behalf of Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR, according to a criminal complaint.
Buryakov, 39, masked this work by posing as a banker for Russia's Vnesheconombank, according to the complaint and the bank's website.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Thomas Grove, Larry King)