MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has identified four British agents who were operating in Moscow under diplomatic cover and has seized a high-tech British spying device used to contact agents, an FSB spokesman said Monday.
The FSB had linked the discovery of the agents and their equipment to financing of non-governmental organizations working in Russia, it said. "We found out that they were financing a number of non-governmental organizations," Colonel Sergei Ignatchenko said. It remained to be established how exactly the funds had been used, he added.
The spying device was disguised as a rock and had a range of 20 meters, according to Ignatchenko. It took only two seconds to establish contact with anyone carrying the appropriate equipment, he said.
British agents had installed the electronic device in a Moscow district, Ignatchenko said, but had later removed it when it had stopped working.
The spokesman said FSB officers had subsequently launched a search for similar devices, and had found a second.
He also said the FSB had decided to go public with information about Britain's alleged espionage activity in the country after British intelligence officers failed to honor a gentlemen's agreement.
The spokesman said FSB officers had met with the official representative of Britain's foreign intelligence service in Moscow last week and told him that spying against Russia and financing non-governmental organizations was "unacceptable."
"They denied that they were working against us," the FSB spokesman said. "Only after that did we decide to make the FSB's information public."
Ignatchenko said the official representative of the Secret Intelligence Service - better known as MI6 - was one of four diplomats involved in the scandal that broke after Russian state television broadcast a program suggesting British embassy officials were engaged in espionage in Moscow.
"The secret services have a gentlemen's agreement that the official SIS representative will not be involved in espionage," Ignatchenko said. "We see that these agreements were breached in this case. In essence, we were deceived. In the near future, we will meet with SIS representatives to talk about these problems."
State-owned TV channel Rossiya broke the news of the affair Sunday evening, in a program featuring interviews with people who claimed to be representatives of the FSB.
They said British agents had planted electronics and a transmitter in an imitation rock on a Moscow street, allowing agents to upload classified computer data, which could then be downloaded by British Embassy employees. The allegations in the program were based on a recording made by a hidden FSB camera.
The program also alleged that Marc Doe, a first secretary at the British Embassy in Moscow, had been authorizing regular payments to Russian non-governmental organizations. Several documents signed by him were shown as evidence of cash payments to NGOs operating in Moscow, including 23,000 pounds (about $40,000) to the Moscow Helsinki Group, and 5,719 pounds ($9,700) to the Eurasia Foundation.
Another document signed by Doe, a 27-year-old graduate of Durham University, contained information on cash payments for an obscure project for establishing schools of public inspectors in remote areas of Siberia and Russia's Far East.
FSB spokesperson Diana Shemyakina said earlier that thousands of NGOs were working in Russia, although only 92 were officially registered by the Justice Ministry. Most of them were founded and provided with funds by the U.S. government and public organizations, and by its NATO allies, she said.
Non-governmental organizations with financing from other countries are thought to have played a major role in the "revolutions" that have swept former Soviet states in recent years, prompting some Russian politicians to raise concerns that similar activities were being carried out in Russia. Parliament passed a bill restricting the operation of NGOs at the end of last year.
Apart from Doe, the Rossiya program said embassy employees Christopher Pirt, 30, and Paul Cronton, were also involved in espionage, as was 32-year-old researcher Andre Fleming.
However, Ignatchenko specifically targeted Doe. "We know well that Marc Doe introduced himself as a representative of the Global Opportunities Fund at meetings with NGO members," he said.
Ignatchenko added that the FSB had detained a Russian citizen who admitted being involved with foreign secret services. His name has not been released.