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21 Mar, 2008 06:19

American brothers accused of spying in Moscow

The Russian Security Service has charged two brothers, who are joint Russia-U.S. citizens, with commercial espionage. One of the Zaslavsky brothers works for TNK-BP, while the other is a member of a British Council's alumni club. They have allegedly acqui

The Federal Security Service of Russia, the FSB, detained the two men on March 12 and charged them on March 18.

The arrested men are brothers with the surname Zaslavsky. One of them heads a British Council’s Graduate’s Club project and his brother is the head of TNK BP Management’s English Department.

According to FSB spokesman Sergey Ignachenko, the Zaslavsky were “apprehended during an attempt to obtain commercial classified information from a citizen of Russia, an employee of one of the ‘closed’ Russian oil and gas companies”.

They are suspected of gathering classified information for foreign oil and gas companies.

“The persons have been collecting commercial classified information for a number of foreign oil and gas companies, in order for them to obtain advantages over their Russian competitors, for instance, on the CIS market,” Ignachenko said.

On March 19, the Russian security service conducted a search in TNK-BP’s offices, during which they have found material evidence confirming the industrial espionage.

Among the documents seized during the search, the FSB spokesman says, were “copies of Russian government documents, analytical reports relating to subsurface resources management, preliminarily rated as commercial classified information, as well as visit cards of representatives of foreign military agencies and the CIA”.

The Zaslavsky brothers have been released, but are not allowed to leave the country.

An investigation is underway.

Meanwhile, the British Embassy in Moscow says it is watching the situation closely, but refrained from commenting on the news.

The British Council is also monitoring the situation. They have pointed out that one of the Zaslavsky brothers is not an employee of the organisation, but a head of a project within it, the Alumni Association.

Aleksandr Shadrin, the spokesperson of the joint Russian-British oil company, TNK-BP, says the company is working closely with law enforcement agencies and the latest events have not interfered with its business.

“TNK-BP operates strictly in accordance with Russian law and we will not tolerate any action which could damage either the reputation of the Russian Federation or any of our business partners. We are opposed to unethical business relations or unlawful methods of competition. In this particular case we've co-operated fully with law-enforcement agencies,” he said.

He added that the company continues to operate in its normal manner and recent events haven’t affected its activities in any way.

It's feared the arrests may increase tension between Russia, the UK and the US.