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    MOSCOW, April 9 (RIA Novosti) - Foreign intelligence agencies have been showing growing interest in the Russian Institute for U.S. & Canada Studies, its head, Sergei Rogov, says.

    "I don't like it when our institute's name is mentioned as [if it were] a CIA nest. Neither do I like secret services' attention," Rogov said at a press conference Friday, two days after a panel of jurors had found his former employee Igor Sutyagin guilty of high treason and sentenced him to a 15-year term in jail.

    A unique team of top-class experts has been shaped at the Institute for the U.S. and Canada over the 35 years of its existence, Rogov said. In the 1980s, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency managed to crimp two of the institute's research fellows. And in the late '90s, Sutyagin, an arms control researcher, was charged by Russian authorities with divulging state secrets to foreign intelligence agencies. But Sutyagin was never privy to any classified information and would draw only on information in the public domain, Rogov stressed. Being a highly competent analyst, however, the man could be of interest to foreign secret services, he acknowledged.

    According to Rogov, Sutyagin's alleged contacts with Sean Kidd and Nadia Locke weren't part of his work at the institute. To meet with them, he would often go on secret trips abroad-to places such as London, Bucharest, Budapest, and Rome. It is also known for a fact that those two individuals paid Sutyagin a total of about $20,000 for his services.

    "I don't know whether he was a spy or not, but I do know that Sean Kidd and Nadia Locke ain't scholars," Rogov said. Sutyagin must have been aware he was doing something wrong, but he thought that as long as he didn't divulge any state secrets, his activity could not be seen as violating the law, he said. According to Rogov, Sutyagin's "consultations" with foreigners had nothing to do with the scholarly exchange the U.S. & Canada Institute maintains with foreign counterparts. "That's not an accepted practice," he said. Speaking of the sentence imposed on his former employee, Rogov said that fifteen-year imprisonment was an inadequately severe punishment and expressed hope that the Supreme Court would overturn the verdict. He also said that the trial over Sutyagin had a higher degree of openness than is normally the case. "In the United States, charges like those brought against Sutyagin are not considered by a jury, as [was the case] here, but by a professional court behind closed doors," he noted.

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