By John Helmer, Moscow
“Russia’s federal security service, the successor to the KGB, has launched a cold-war style attack on non-governmental organisations and human rights groups, linking them with alleged espionage by British diplomats in Moscow.The accusations against the British diplomats come within weeks of Russia assuming the presidency of G8 from Britain and just days before a meeting of finance ministers in Moscow which will be attended by Gordon Brown, the UK chancellor…
The FSB on Monday confirmed claims made in a state television programme that it had uncovered a James Bond-style spying operation involving four British diplomats using a transmitter hidden in a fake rock on a Moscow street to gather information.
It said the spies had also financed NGOs, including the Moscow Helsinki Group, one of the most prominent human rights campaigners in Russia.
“The most important thing is that we caught them (the spies) red-handed while they were in contact with their agents and established that they were financing some non-governmental organisations,” said Sergei Ignatchenko, a spokesman for the FSB.
The UK Foreign Office rejected “any allegations of improper conduct in our dealing with Russian NGOs”. It said it had openly given financial support to projects implemented by Russian NGOs in the field of human rights and civil society… Russian analysts said the programme was inspired by the FSB and aimed to discredit all foreign sponsored NGOs as outfits of foreign intelligence services.
“This was a classic special operation [by the FSB] aimed at limiting any form of foreign influence in Russia, including NGOs and foreign media,” one Russian commentator said.”
|— Financial Times (Arkady Ostrovsky), January 23, 2006|
“If we send them away, more will come. Maybe clever ones will come. And we will have to struggle to find them. It has now become clear to many why Russia passed a law regulating NGO activities.”
|— President Vladimir Putin, February 2006|
“There’s not much you can say. The spy rock was embarrassing…you can’t really call up and say ‘I’m terribly sorry about that, it won’t happen again’. I mean, they had us bang to rights. Clearly they had known about it for some time and had been saving it up for a political purpose.”
|— Jonathan Powell, chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006, BBC Channel 2 Interview broadcast on January 19, 2011|
“Vladimir Putin has been handed a propaganda gift, according to some analysts, after an admission that British embassy officials deployed a fake rock to spy on Russia…Commentators said Mr Powell’s admission could increase pressure on Russian NGOs just as they are coming under renewed fire.
“In the current political situation, this admission [by Mr Powell] could be used as proof that Putin is right when he claims that foreign intelligence services are behind the protests,” said Nikolay Petrov, analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center. “If numbers fall at the next protest on February 4, then I think they will ratchet up this line to the full extent: that NGOs are receiving orders from the enemies of Russia to destabilise the country.”
|— Financial Times (Catherine Belton), January 20, 2012|
“This is one of the few cases when on an official, political level such an official admission is made. The admission we heard is a serious signal from London that it is time to improve our relations. It is a propaganda step. The British policy on information will also change to say: ‘We are open, we do not hide facts.’ ”
|— Nikolai Kovalyov, Colonel-General and former head of Federal Security Service (1996-98), in interview with RIA-Novosti, January 19, 2012|
Historical note: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PPf3aaZmUw