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Russia busts pair 'trying to sell CIA fake secrets'

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Moscow (AFP)

Russia's security service said Tuesday it had foiled an attempt by two young men in Siberia to sell made-up military secrets to the CIA for cash.

The fraudsters from the town of Borzi -- which has a population of 30,000 -- reportedly emailed the American spy agency offering to sell them information.

The "allegedly secret" intelligence included information "about railroad cars leaving for Ukraine and the placement of missiles aimed at the United States," an FSB spokeswoman told RIA Novosti.

The Russian security agency told TASS news wire that the CIA "took the bait" and "began to start posing questions, especially about the situation at military sites".

The pair did not get offered any money and eventually, when agents from the FSB caught up with them, the fact all the information was fake turned out to be their saving grace.

"They were given a warning, since this isn't worth a criminal charge. Naturally they had no secrets and just made up the information," the agency said.

Pro-Kremlin media portrayed the attempted con as a case of cunning Russians getting one over on the United States.

"The James Bonds from the depths of Siberia led the CIA agents up the garden path," the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid wrote.

One of the men -- a 20-year-old IT specialist called Dmitry -- told the daily that he got in touch with the CIA via their website and had asked for "good money".

"We saw a howitzer at the station -- we have a motor-rifle unit near by -- and wrote that a troop train was sent to Ukraine," he said."We also made up a story about missile systems aimed at America."

The computer nerd had never served in the army and to add authenticity, asked a 23-year-old unemployed friend who had done military service for help, the daily reported.

Russia and the US are currently locked in their worst stand-off since the Cold War over the Ukraine crisis and suspicions of increased spying both both sides have ratcheted up.

The relaxed treatment of the duo contrasts with the FSB's arrest last year of a young mother for allegedly phoning the Ukrainian embassy about troop movements in her town west of Moscow.

The woman, Svetlana Davydova, allegedly gave the report as the conflict in eastern Ukraine intensified in April 2014.

She was imprisoned and charged with treason, although Russia ultimately dropped the charges.

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