Confession: Russian Spies in NYC Want More 'Drama'

Foreign operatives like Evgeny Buryakov often spend their days at meetings and on LinkedIn
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2016 3:04 PM CST
The Most Boring Russian Spy in the World
In this courtroom drawing, defendant Evgeny Buryakov, left, stands with his attorney during sentencing on espionage charges on May 25, 2016 in New York.   (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)

A Wall Street analyst in the Bronx who spent much of his time attending mundane meetings, filing reports, and networking (including on LinkedIn) turned out to be a Russian spy—just part and parcel of the undercover espionage operations that burrow into place in New York City, as reported in a fascinating read on Bloomberg. The article tells the tale of Evgeny Buryakov, a banker who infiltrated corporate and governmental circles to try to cull secrets, but it's also the story of how these operatives pull off their long con. And long it is: Russian intelligence spies exhibit "extreme patience" by befriending junior-level workers, exchanging and drawing out meaningless info, and then nurturing those relationships for years, until one day that junior person reaches senior ranks and willingly offers up valuable info to their "old friends." "This isn't about just stealing classified information. This is about stealing you," Maria Ricci, a longtime FBI agent, tells Bloomberg.

What's most intriguing is these operatives' reliance on human recruitment over more readily available "open source" info—"whispered conversations always feel sexier," Ricci notes—as well as some of the surprising missteps the profiled spies made. The article even gets into the sometimes comical disappointment of undercover Russian operatives who, while well aware they're not the next James Bond, still pine for a little more "drama," even if it's something as small as getting to travel under an alias. As for Buryakov, he was eventually arrested on charges of "conspiring to act in the United States as an agent of the Russian Federation" and sentenced in May to 30 months in prison. (Read the Bloomberg article to see how the FBI set up Buryakov in its "final dramatic episode … of a foreign spy recruiting a Wall Street source, from first contact to document handoff.")

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