US: Russian diplomats cheated health care program

Associated Press
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U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announces charges against more than a dozen Russian diplomats and their spouses living in New York during a news conference Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 in New York. The charges stem from the defendants' alleged involvement in a $1.5 million fraud of a U.S. government health program for the poor. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

NEW YORK (AP) — Russia's deputy foreign minister says criminal charges brought against Russian diplomats and their wives in New York cater to "Russophobic forces" and may reveal an effort by some in Washington to spoil progress toward settling major Russia-U.S. conflicts.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (Ryab-KOFF') made the remarks carried by Russia's state news agency, ITAR-Tass, on Thursday. They came after charges were announced in New York City against 49 current and former Russian diplomats and their wives.

Federal prosecutors said the diplomats and their wives dramatically understated their incomes to qualify for Medicaid assistance. Ryabkov said Russia rejects the accusations and believes the surveillance of diplomats that led to them is illegal.

Authorities say the Russians spent lavishly on vacations, jewelry and electronics while they claimed poverty.