Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Newspaper Names Alleged Spy for Britain

A Russian facing trial for spying for Britain was named by a Russian newspaper Wednesday as a 28-year-old diplomat, part-time writer of espionage thrillers and son of a former deputy foreign minister.

The Argumenty i Fakty weekly said Platon Obukhov, who triggered a major spy scandal earlier this year after being accused of passing information to British intelligence, wrote popular espionage and crime thrillers on the side.

The newspaper said Obukhov was a second secretary in the Foreign Ministry's prestigious North America Department. "He dealt with touchy, delicate questions such as disarmament."

But Obukhov appeared to be cutting out a career for himself as a novelist, Argumenty i Fakty said.

His works such as "In the Embrace of the Spider" and "Fateful Woman" were sold at stalls in Moscow's underground passes and railway stations.

The Federal Security Service declined comment. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she could neither confirm nor deny the report.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Moscow also declined comment, saying only: "We regard the whole incident as closed."

In the Cold War-style tit-for-tat expulsion row which erupted in May, Britain expelled four Russian diplomats in response to Moscow's decision to throw out the same number of British Embassy employees. Russia accused the British diplomats of links to a Russian citizen who had access to classified information, but the name of the alleged spy was never disclosed.

Argumenty i Fakty said Obukhov was the son of a deputy to former Russian foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, who along with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was instrumental in ending the Cold War.

Obukhov's father, Alexei, later became Russian ambassador to Denmark, but he probably knew nothing about his son's activities, the newspaper said.

Alexei Obukhov was recalled to Moscow at the end of May but he returned to Denmark after being interrogated and having his flat searched, it said. But, suffering from stress and heart problems, he later resigned.

Argumenty i Fakty said Platon Obukhov, who wrote under his real name, liked to create the impression in his novels that he himself had lived the experiences of his fictional characters.

He described how the Russian mafia controlled prostitution and gun-running and maintained contacts with the U.S. and British intelligence services.

The newspaper said the British started to cultivate relations with Obukhov in the early 1990s and the FSB had been following him for about four months before his arrest.

The Russian diplomat looked more like a scientist than a spy and he was a cynical character, it said.

The FSB had videotaped evidence showing him passing information to British Embassy staff, it said. But Obukhov told his interrogators that he was merely gathering information for his latest novel.

The novel could have been called "Playing at Death", Argumenty i Fakty said, because that is the sentence faced by the author if he is convicted.