On February 27, the FSB made public that it had arrested an alleged “agent-in-training for American intelligence” in Voronezh in central Russia.
John Edward Tobin, a 24-year-old American exchange student from Ridgefield, Connecticut, was detained on January 26 while being in the possession of 4.5 grams marijuana, and has been in custody ever since. Although Tobin according to the FSB had yet to carry out any spying activity, it stated that his arrest showed that “potential spies could be found even under the cover of exchange students”.
Pavel Bolshunov, a FSB spokesman in Voronezh, told Reuters that it was Tobin’s fluent Russian that had aroused the suspicion. He said that the FSB believed Tobin was an interrogation specialist who had been sent to Russia for additional training. However, the alleged U.S. agent was caught red-handed smoking marijuana and had thus, very seriously “discredited the institutions that might stand behind him”, Bolshunov said.
Pavel Felgenhauer, a well-known security and defence analyst in
Moscow, said the suggestion of espionage links was a warning for all foreign organisations working in Russia. “They can be accused of being accomplices in spying activity,” he said.
Although Tobin apparently will not be charged for espionage, he may still face a sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted for having distributed marijuana. “The bags of narcotics were small, but this is not Holland,” FSB-spokesman Bolshunov said.