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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB Opens Inquiry into MI6 Allegation

The Federal Security Service said Saturday that it had opened a criminal investigation into an allegation by a former tax inspector that he was recruited by Britain's foreign intelligence agency, MI6.

The FSB said the information it received from Vyacheslav Zharko indicated that British agents tried to recruit him from 2003 to 2007.

The British "later used him as an agent for conducting espionage activities," the FSB said in a statement.

The FSB has identified Zharko as a former member of a special forces unit. But Zharko denied that in an interview published Saturday in Komsomolskaya Pravda, saying he worked as an officer with the federal tax police for seven years in the 1990s.

He also said he was involved in the investigation that eventually pushed NTV -- at the time Russia's only independent national television channel -- into state-control.

Britain's Foreign Office refused to respond to the FSB announcement, saying it never comments publicly on security or intelligence issues.

The investigation is the second to be announced this year by the FSB targeting Britain and is the latest in a string of allegations, claims and public announcements by Russian officials about espionage.

The probe comes just days after Russian prosecutors officially rejected Britain's request to extradite former security services officer and businessman Andrei Lugovoi, who is wanted for his purported involvement in the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko last year.

Litvinenko, a former FSB officer, died in a London hospital in November after ingesting the radioactive isotope polonium-210.

Lugovoi, meanwhile, claimed recently that British secret services and self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, a harsh Kremlin critic who now lives in London, had a hand in Litvinenko's death.

In an unusual documentary film broadcast on the same day that the FSB released Zharko's name a week ago, Zharko described how he befriended Berezovsky in the late 1990s in London, and how he eventually came to meet Litvinenko.

Litvinenko, Zharko said, eventually introduced him to British secret agents in London. He said he was paid initially up to 2,000 euros per month to gather information on the Russian economy. By 2005, British spies were pressing him for information on the FSB and counterintelligence efforts directed against British spies, he told NTV.

In a weekend interview with the government-funded, English-language, satellite channel Russia Today, Zharko repeated allegations that Litvinenko worked for the British spy agencies.

He also said Litvinenko, seeking to earn money to support his family, had sought out "extremists."

n The Prosecutor General's Office said Friday that Britain was wrong not to prosecute Berezovsky for calling for the overthrow of the government, Reuters reported. Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said Thursday that Berezovsky would not be charged with any criminal offenses. It cited a lack of evidence that he was inciting the use of violence.