The case against Richard Bliss, an American technician accused of spying late last year by Russian security forces, has apparently been extended for at least another four months. Attorneys for Bliss say that the U.S. State Department has informed them of the decision by Russian authorities.
Bliss was arrested in southern Russia last December on charges of having taken land surveys of restricted sites using satellite receivers which he had brought into the country illegally. He was held for two weeks by Russian authorities before being allowed to return home for the Christmas holiday. Russian officials said at the time that the investigation into Bliss’s activities would continue, and that he would have to return to Russia in January for additional questioning. That requirement was later dropped, but the case against him was not. Bliss’s release followed an intense campaign by U.S. authorities which included an appeal by Vice President Al Gore to then Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. U.S. officials reportedly warned that the charges against Bliss could harm broader Russian-U.S. relations and might also impede Russia’s economic integration into the world community (see the Monitor, December 2, 9, 1997).
Last month Bliss quit Qualcomm Inc., the San Diego-based telecommunications company for which he was working in Russia at the time of his arrest. He also filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that Qualcomm had knowingly sent him to Russia with the illegal satellite equipment (AP, November 19). In addition, Bliss has accused Qualcomm–which has continuing business interests in Russia–of doing little to get the charges against him dropped. Qualcomm, for its part, has dismissed the charges by Bliss, and has said that it would continue to lobby Russian officials on his behalf. Bliss says, however, that Qualcomm no longer represents his interests and that he wants instead to deal directly with the U.S. State Department (UPI, December 4, 6; AP, December 4).
KGB OFFICER APPOINTED FOREIGN MINISTER OF BELARUS.