Russia 'makes second arrest' over British spy scandal

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The Independent Online

The Foreign Office was last night making urgent diplomatic checks after it was reported that a fresh arrest has been made in Russia of a person accused of spying for Britain.

The claim was made by the former head of the FSB security service, Nikolai Kovalyov, in an interview with a Russian TV channel due to be broadcast today. In an extract from the interview shown last night, Mr Kovalyov, now an MP, says that two people allegedly working as spies for Britain have been arrested in Moscow, adding: "Of course they are not silent, they are talking."

One arrest is already known to have been made in the affair, which allegedly involves British embassy personnel and a fake rock planted in a Moscow park. Last week the same TV programme showed footage of four British diplomats visiting the park at different times. It was alleged that anyone passing nearby could send and receive data through a transmitter concealed in the "rock", using hand-held digital devices.

British diplomats were yesterday making urgent inquiries about the identity of the second alleged spy. Foreign Office sources said they did not believe the person was a British citizen, since they had not been officially informed, as diplomatic protocol requires.

"We have not been notified of any arrests," said a Foreign Office spokesman. "It is not clear if the reports are about our staff. We have asked the [Russian government] for information and are checking with our staff."

Journalists who contacted the FSB last night were advised to watch the programme on Sunday and note what Mr Kovalyov said. The agency had no official comment.

On Wednesday, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said officials were still considering how to respond to the alleged spy scandal. So far no British diplomats have been asked to leave the country; however, leaks to the Russian media claim that a British diplomatic representative made regular payments to Russian non-governmental organisations.

There has been speculation that the Russian security services may have been unable to decode the data passing through the fake rock in Moscow, but decided to use the affair in the Kremlin's campaign against NGOs accused of undermining the state's security.

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