Russian officer convicted of spying for CIA

MOSCOW (AP) — A military court on Friday convicted a Russian officer of passing missile secrets to the CIA and sentenced him to 13 years in prison, officials said.

Lt.-Col. Vladimir Nesterets also was stripped of his military rank after he pleaded guilty to passing classified information about Russian missile tests to the CIA for money, said the Federal Security Service, the main agency that replaced the KGB.

The agency said Nesterets committed treason as he worked as a senior engineer at the Plesetsk launch pad in northwestern Russia, a facility the military uses to launch satellites and test missiles.

The security service’s terse statement did not say when Nesterets had been arrested or give any further details about his case.

The conviction comes amid growing tension in U.S.-Russian relations, despite President Barack Obama’s efforts to “reset” them from strains that had developed during the previous U.S. administration.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have worsened over a new U.S.-led missile defense system being developed by NATO around Europe, and Russia teaming with China to block a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also has been increasingly eager to challenge the U.S. as he campaigns to reclaim his nation’s presidency in next month’s election. He has accused Washington of fueling the massive protests that have recently taken place against his rule in order to weaken the nation.

Earlier this week, Putin’s protege, President Dmitry Medvedev, praised the Federal Security Service for exposing 41 foreign intelligent officers and 158 of their agents last year.

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