Industrial spies’ arrest not related to British Council: Russia

March 21st, 2008 - 11:27 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)
RIA Novosti
Moscow, March 21 (RIA Novosti) The arrests of two men by the internal security agency for alleged industrial espionage are not related to the recent closure of British Council offices, the Russian Foreign Office said Friday. The Federal Security Service officials arrested March 12 two employees of Russian-British joint oil venture TNK-BP, Ilya Zaslavsky and his brother Alexander, who have links with the British Council, for “illegally gathering secret commercial information”.

The British Council said Zaslavsky was not on its staff but was a member of the embassy’s alumni club for foreign graduates of British universities.

The British Council, whose regional offices in Russia were closed down earlier this year over alleged tax violations, had voiced its concern over the arrests.

“There is no sense in looking for a connection between these two completely separate cases,” Andrei Krivtsov, a deputy head of the foreign ministry’s information department, said.

TNK-BP’s stock fell 4.5 percent after the news of the arrests.

On Wednesday, the police seized documents from the central office of TNK-BP, jointly owned by Russia and the British Petroleum (BP). The Moscow office of BP was also raided.

Security officials said they recovered during searches copies of official documents, papers on oil and gas production believed to contain commercial secrets, as well as ID cards belonging to foreign military organisations and to America’s Central Investigation Agency (CIA).

Despite Russia’s denial that the two cases are related, the arrests have the potential to further worsen Russian-British relations, already strained following the murder of Russian security service defector Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006 in London, and more recently by the closure of British Council offices by Russian authorities.
RIA Novosti

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