CTV.ca News Staff
Russia's state security service has accused four British diplomats of spying in Moscow after a TV report said they planted a transmitter in a fake rock as part of a plan to steal secrets.
"An electronic cache from the British intelligence service was seized by counterintelligence," the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman Sergei Ignatchenko as saying.
Britain's Foreign Office said it was "concerned and surprised" at the report, which also alleged that a British official authorized regular payments to Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
In a statement, the Foreign Office said the diplomats "reject any allegation of improper conduct in our dealing with Russian NGOs."
Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed FSB spokesman as saying that "everything that was shown was true and based on our information".
The officer, who refused to give his name, said the activities were discovered during an operation in Moscow.
The documentary, shown on Rossiya television, claimed that four British embassy staff used electronic equipment concealed in a rock in a Moscow square to receive intelligence information provided by Russian agents.
Hidden camera footage on the program appears to show individuals walking up to the rock and one man is caught on camera carrying it away.
A FSB officer told Rossiya television the hi-tech stone was "absolutely new spy technology".
Among the diplomats named by the program were Marc Doe and Paul Crompton, both of the British Embassy's political section.
Rossiya also showed copies of documents it said showed Britain had transferred money to non-governmental organizations working in Russia and described Doe as the main contact point for NGOs.
The program contained several interviews with people claiming to be Russian intelligence officers, who made the allegations.
The head of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, last year accused U.S. and other foreign intelligence services of using NGOs to spy on Russia and foment political upheaval in ex-Soviet republics.
Under legislation signed into law earlier this month by President Vladimir Putin, NGOs face tighter regulations on their financing and activities.
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