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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ex-FSB Chief Says 2 Arrested for Spying

Ekho MoskvyNikolai Kovalyov
Two people have been arrested on suspicion of spying for Britain, Nikolai Kovalyov, a State Duma deputy and former director of the Federal Security Service, said Sunday on NTV television.

"Two British spies have been arrested. Of course ... they are talking. They are telling [us] how they worked and with whom they worked," Kovalyov said on the "Special Events" show.

It was unclear whether Kovalyov was referring to British or Russian citizens. Diplomats have immunity from arrest.

"I think that the English once more find themselves in the awkward situation, to put it mildly, of denying the fact of their active intelligence work on Russian soil," Kovalyov said.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, announced last Monday that it had uncovered a spy ring that included four mid-ranking diplomats at the British Embassy and their Russian contact late last year. The diplomats are accused of downloading information onto hand-held computers from transmitters hidden in fake rocks. The FSB also said one of the diplomats had authorized British government grants to Russian NGOs.

While there is no evidence that British intelligence has financed Russian NGOs, many officials, including President Vladimir Putin himself, have pounced on the allegations to suggest that foreign spies were funding NGOs.

Britain has not confirmed or denied that the diplomats were spies. It has insisted, however, that its funding of NGOs was proper.

Leading NGOs fear the FSB claims are part of a campaign to discredit them.

An FSB spokesman said the agency would not comment about the two arrests on Sunday. "You'll get all the information you need on Monday," he said.

British Embassy officials could not be reached for comment, but a British Foreign Office spokesman told The Associated Press on Saturday that his office had not been informed of any arrests. "It is not clear from the report if they are about British staff," he said. Excerpts of Sunday's show were released Saturday.

On the show, hosted by Mikhail Tukmachyov, Kovalyov accused British intelligence of having become "indecently more and more active in past years."