Russia and Ukraine's national security services traded espionage accusations on Tuesday, just days before Ukrainians vote in presidential polls.
The row began when the head of Ukraine's national security service (SBU) said it had uncovered a Russian spy network and detained one of its members, while expelling four more.
SBU head Valentyn Nalyvaichenko was quoted by Ukrainian news agency Unian as saying the five FSB officers had been detained on January 27 in Ukraine's Odessa Region for trying to purchase "state secrets" from a Ukrainian national. He also said spying devices were seized from them.
Russia's FSB was quick to respond, saying that the incident was provoked by Ukraine's efforts to recruit spies from among Russian citizens.
It also said the incident was connected to the arrest of Ukrainian national Ruslan Pilipenko, "known to the FSB as an employee of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate."
The security service said Pilipenko was detained at a Russian military facility on October 29, 2009 in Tiraspol, the capital of the Moldovan breakaway republic of Transdnestr, while "performing spying activities." The FSB said he had been involved in actions "to the detriment of the security interests of the Russian Armed Forces" since 2006. He was later released and deported.
It also said that a digital camera containing photos of top secret Russian documents was seized from him. The security service also said Pilipenko had confessed and pledged to submit information on other spying activities and agents working against Russia.
The FSB also expressed "surprise that the SBU decided to make the incident public, as such situations are usually resolved between special services."
The row comes just days before Ukraine's February 7 presidential election runoff, and is another stage in a series of disputes between the two former Soviet republics.
MOSCOW, February 2 (RIA Novosti)