By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Russian citizen who U.S. authorities accuse of posing as a banker while participating in a spy ring operating in New York City pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.
Evgeny Buryakov’s plea was entered on his behalf by defense lawyer Benjamin Naftalis at a hearing in Manhattan federal court two days after the Russian was indicted on charges that he engaged in a conspiracy and acted as an unregistered agent of Russia.
Buryakov, who appeared in court in blue jail garb, was arrested in January as the U.S. Justice Department unveiled an initial set of charges against him and two other Russians, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy.
Prosecutors have said the trio conspired to gather economic intelligence on behalf of Russia, including information about U.S. sanctions against the country, and to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources.
The case has prompted demands for Buryakov’s release by Russia’s foreign ministry, which says the United States had not provided evidence to support the allegations.
Prosecutors said Buryakov engaged in covert work on behalf of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, while posing as a banker. Russia’s Vnesheconombank continues to on its website list Buryakov as a deputy representative for its New York office.
Federal prosecutors said Sporyshev worked as a Russian trade representative from November 2010 to November 2014, while Podobnyy was an attaché to Russia’s mission to the United Nations from December 2012 to September 2013.
Prosecutors said Buryakov met with Sporyshev on four dozen occasions from March 2012 to September 2014 to exchange information related to their work as intelligence agents for SVR.
Buryakov also in November 2012 and March 2013 traveled to another country to collect economic intelligence for SVR, prosecutors said.
Sporyshev and Podobnyy have not been arrested and no longer live in the United States but had diplomatic immunity while they were in the country, prosecutors said.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)