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23 Mar, 2008 04:19

Russia arrests two on suspicion of spying

Russian Security Services arrested two brothers with dual Russia-U.S. citizenship on charges of industrial espionage. Ilya Zaslavsky works for the joint Russian-British oil company TNK-BP, while his brother Aleksandr heads the Alumni Club of the British C

The FSB accuses the men of collecting confidential information on behalf of foreign companies in the energy market. It's feared the arrests may increase tension between Russia, the UK and the U.S.

The men were arrested on March 12 while allegedly attempting to obtain secret information from a Russian working in the oil and gas sphere.

The FSB says the Zaslavsky brothers intended to pass the secret information on to foreign companies to give them an advantage while operating with their Russian competitors.

Searches were carried out in the Moscow offices of TNK-BP and BP-Trading Limited companies.

“During the search, we found material evidence confirming industrial espionage, namely, copies of Russian government documents, analytical reports, relating to sub-surface resources management, preliminarily rated as commercial classified information, as well as cards of representatives of foreign military agencies and the CIA,” said Sergey Ignatenko, FSB spokesman.

Experts say more light needs to be shed on the men's actions, adding that the scandal will affect Russian-British relations and business ties.

“It's just another episode in the long history of tensions and spy scandals. Maybe the parties have got used to that kind of bilateral relations,” suggested Nikolay Krutikhin from Rusenergy Consulting.

Meanwhile, TNK-BP says it is co-operating with authorities.

“The work of TNK-BP has always been based on Russian law. We are against uncivilised practices of carrying out business or using illegal methods while being competitors in business,” said Aleksandr Shadrin, TNK-BP press secretary.

The company also says it is continuing with its normal course of work.

Both the British Council and the British Embassy in Russia say they are keeping a close watch on the story. Meanwhile, a more thorough investigation into the matter is underway.