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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB Detains Russian It Says Spied For Britain




The Federal Security Service's counterintelligence unit said Wednesday it has detained a Russian citizen who had spied for Britain with the help of security police from Estonia.


A spokesman for the security service, or FSB, declined to give details but said an investigation was being conducted into the suspect's activities and he was being held in Moscow's Lefortovo prison.


RIA news agency quoted the FSB as saying British intelligence had worked with the alleged spy in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and that the country's own security services had helped.


Spokesmen for Britain's Foreign Office in London and the Estonian government in Tallinn declined to comment.


Estonia's security police said there was nothing to comment on "since no one is taking the issue seriously [at this point] ... since the [available] information is not adequate."


RIA quoted an unnamed FSB representative as saying the Russian citizen was not arrested in Tallinn, but that the FSB believed he traveled there regularly.


There, he would either meet his British handlers or send information via the Estonian security police, RIA quoted the FSB representative as saying.


Interfax quoted the FSB's main spokesman, Alexander Zdanovich, as saying a criminal case had been opened against the alleged spy.


The detention came less than a week after British Prime Minister Tony Blair met acting President Vladimir Putin for talks in St. Petersburg.


Putin himself served first in the Soviet security police, the KGB, and then became head of its principal successor, the FSB, in 1998.


Spy scandals are less frequent than they were during the Cold War, but they still occur.


Russia already has one man accused of spying for Britain in detention - Platon Obukhov. He was arrested in 1996 for allegedly passing secrets to British agents while working for the Russian Foreign Ministry. His trial has been postponed several times.


Last year Russia expelled Cherie Leberknight, a second secretary in the political section of the U.S. embassy, for spying and said the FSB had caught her red-handed in a Moscow park as she prepared to meet a contact. A week later, the United States ordered the expulsion of a Russian diplomat, saying it caught him monitoring a listening device planted in a State Department conference room.


Russia and Poland recently became embroiled in a spy spat, each expelling nine of the other's diplomats.


Russia and Britain have had their fair share of clashes over espionage in the last 10 years.


In April 1994, Britain threw out a Russian diplomat in response to Moscow's expulsion of a man described as the head of Britain's SIS foreign intelligence service in Russia.


In 1996, Russia expelled nine British diplomats it said were running a spy ring and Britain responded by ordering out four Russian diplomats in one of the most serious spy scandals since the end of the Cold War.


Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher engaged in a series of expulsions of alleged spies in the late 1980s, each side expelling several dozen people.