Footage shows US diplomat, Russian guard grappling on embassy steps

MOSCOW (REUTERS) - Russian television on Thursday broadcast video footage of what it said was a Russian police officer and an American diplomat wrestling on the steps of the American embassy in Moscow.

Reports of the incident had emerged late last month. The Washington Post newspaper, citing US diplomats, said an embassy employee had been attacked on June 6 by the police officer. Russian officials said the diplomat had attacked the policeman.

The night-time footage, from what appeared to be a closed circuit television camera across the street from a side entrance into the embassy compound, showed a yellow taxi pulling up and a man jumping out of the front passenger door.

He moved purposefully towards the entrance, but after he had taken about three steps the door of a police sentry box in front of the entrance swung upon.

A man in police uniform then darted out, grabbed the man, and wrestled him to the floor about two metres from the door leading into the embassy building, according to the footage which was broadcast by the NTV station. The footage then showed the police officer lying on top of the other man, who was on his back, pinning him to the floor. The man managed to wriggle his way towards the door and get it open, at which point the footage ended.

The US embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said the police officer had wanted to check the man's documents to establish he was not a threat to embassy security, but was elbowed in the face when he tried to challenge him. She said the embassy employee was a CIA agent operating under diplomatic cover.

The United States has accused Russia of a campaign of harassment against its diplomats in Moscow, while Russia has accused Washington of meting out similar treatment to Russian diplomats based in the US.