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Russian TV claims FSB intercepted American spy's phone calls

Ryan Fogle is having a very bad week. First the American diplomat in Moscow was arrested on charges of espionage while carrying a ludicrous collection of what might generously be called spy gear. Then Russian authorities expelled Fogle from the country. Now the country's state-run television is claiming that Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) intercepted Fogle's telephone conversations with the Russian counterterrorism official he was trying to recruit. And if the reports are accurate -- a big if -- they certainly don't make the CIA look good.

The transcript, only a small part of which has been released, paints Fogle as a man in a rush: "I think it's worth meeting today," he allegedly told the Russian official. "It's not possible tomorrow, it's only possible today. Well, it's worth it, as I said, you can earn a million dollars a year and I have $100,000 with me, but it has to be now."

According to Russia's Channel One, the FSB intercepted two calls minutes before Fogle and his potential asset met at a park in Moscow. "Opposite you is the stairway to the park," Fogle allegedly told his target. "I see you. I'll be there."

From there, the humiliation only continued, as Fogle was wrestled to the ground by the man he was trying to recruit. The Russian intelligence official "was a combat officer who had taken part in counter-terrorists operations many times himself in the North Caucasus, and himself had very serious military training," an FSB officer told Channel One.

According to Channel One, the FSB had been tracking Fogle since his arrival in Moscow in early 2011. "By that time, Russian counter-intelligence had already possessed information about his affiliation to the CIA staff, and from the moment he arrived in Russia, he was put under the appropriate surveillance. We can now say that this is not the first act of espionage in which the American has taken a personal part," an FSB officer told the station.

If the reporting is to be believed, Fogle spent two years under surveillance and was naive enough to bring a large sum of money to a clandestine meeting without realizing that his prospective asset was about to burn him.

That staggering incompetence is enough to inspire some skepticism about the allegations. Beyond the motivation of making the United States look bad, Moscow could be sending a message to Washington about their counterterrorism cooperation in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing (on Wednesday, Russia's Kommersant claimed that Fogle was seeking intelligence on the marathon bombing suspects, who both have roots in the North Caucasus). On the other hand, this certainly wouldn't be the first time the CIA did something stupid.

(Thanks to Catherine A. Fitzpatrick at The Interpreter for translating the original Channel One story.)

-/AFP/Getty Images

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Ramzan Kadyrov's 11 weirdest Instagrams

 

Ramzan Kadyrov, the 36 year-old president of Chechnya, reported human rights violator, supercar driver, champion boxer, and prolific Instagrammer, has once again posted an amazingly bizarre photo to his Instagram account -- posing with a lone wolf (Chechnya's national animal). The caption reads:

Wolf -- The only animal that can go into a fight against a stronger opponent. If he has lost the battle, he will look his opponent in the eye until the last breath, after which he dies.... The wolf always shows himself to his prey and chases it down on the run. It is for precisely this that we can respect them, despite their bloodthirstiness. #Chechnya #Hunting #Wolves.

(Interesting how Kadyrov, once a rebel fighter, appears to be evoking Chechen nationalism even as he grows closer and closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin.)

But there are two sides to this man, clearly. Here's the picture Kadyrov posted just afterwards, of him cradling this cat:

Ever since November 2012, the Chechen strongman has been uploading several photos a day to the photo-sharing site -- quite a self-indulgent act for someone who once called the task a "burden." But how else to monitor public opinion, comment on current events, and appoint Instagram followers to his cabinet? In case you're not one of Kadyrov's 132,804 (and counting) Instagram followers, here are some of his weirdest pics:

 

1. #lounging #tiger #bondvillain

 

2. French actor Gérard Depardieu at table with Kadyrov and his identically dressed children.

 

3. Tracksuit? Check. Golden stag? Check. Let's do this.  

 

4. The focus was on back, traps, and biceps.

 

5. "They fixed a few minor things, told me that I have excellent teeth and sent me off." #oversharing

 

6. Kadyrov posted this photo along with a caption telling "friends, brothers, sisters, subscribers" to stop making appeals to him via Instagram ("more than half" weren't true anyway!) and to stop arguing with each other in the comments section. #orthisiswhereiwillburyyou

 

7. Hugging the sheep the wolf will probably eat later. 

 

8. Chechen rulers -- they're just like us!

 

9. Just grabbing a bull by the horns, lounging on a tractor...

 

10. A perk of being president: as much Jello as you want.

 

11. Anything Putin can do, I can do better.

 

Christian Caryl contributed to this post. 

All photos from Ramzan Kadyrov's Instagram page.