Russia claims it has arrested 'British spy'

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The FSB, the Russian counter-intelligence agency said yesterday that it had arrested a Russian citizen accused of spying for Britain with the aid of the Estonian security service.

"The British Intelligence Service worked with this person in Tallinn [the Estonian capital] with the direct participation of the Estonian special services", a spokesman for the FSB said in a short statement.

The FSB, the successor to the KGB, did not name the alleged spy, who is said to have operated in Russia but returned frequently to Estonia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, to receive his instructions. The Foreign Office has refused to comment. The Estonian security police said: "No one is taking the issue seriously since the information is not adequate".

The announcement of the arrest comes within days of Tony Blair's meeting with Vladimir Putin, the acting Russian president, in St Petersburg, during which he expressed some sympathy for the Russian position in Chechnya.

While giving few details, an unnamed FSB spokesman told the Russian news agency RIA that the spy, in addition to dealing directly to his British handler in Tallinn, also used the Estonian security service as a conduit for information. He was apparently arrested in Russia and is being held in Lefortovo prison in Moscow.