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Russia accuses four countries of spying

Associated Press

MOSCOW Russia's security chief said Thursday his agency has uncovered spy activity that was being conducted under the cover of non-governmental organizations from the United States, Britain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev also suggested that foreign governments are using NGOs to fund and support changes of power in former Soviet republics.

Patrushev's remarks reflected concern in President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin as it grapples with waning regional influence following the ascent of pro-Western governments in ex-Soviet states.

The Kremlin is also worried about outside influence within Russia amid U.S. accusations of backsliding on democracy.

"Along with classic forms of influence on political and economic processes, foreign intelligence agencies are ever more actively using nontraditional methods," including working through "various non-governmental organizations," Patrushev told lawmakers.

"Under cover of implementing humanitarian and educational programs in Russian regions, they lobby the interests of the states in question and gather classified information on a broad spectrum of issues," he said.

Patrushev said his agency, the FSB, whic is the main successor to the Soviet KGB, "has prevented a series of espionage operations" carried out through foreign non-governmental organizations."

He named the Peace Corps which pulled out of Russia in 2002 amid spying allegations as well as the British medical aid group Merlin, the Saudi Red Crescent and a Kuwaiti group he called the Society of Social Reforms.

His comments came just two days after U.S. President George Bush visited Georgia, site of the 'Rose Revolution' 18 months ago that marked the start of a wave of uprisings against entrenched leaders in ex-Soviet republics. One followed in Ukraine, then in Kyrgyzstan.

"Our opponents are steadily and persistently trying to weaken Russian influence in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the international arena as a whole," Patrushev said.

"The latest events in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan unambiguously confirm this."

Patrushev is considered a close ally of Putin, a longtime KGB officer and former FSB chief.

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