UK used 'spy rock' against Russia

2012-01-19 20:56

kalahari.com

London - A former British official has admitted for the first time that Britain was responsible for a James Bond-style spy plot involving a fake rock in Moscow that contained electronic equipment.

Russia accused British diplomats six years ago of using the bizarre scheme to send and receive electronic messages, a charge London had until now denied.

But Jonathan Powell, chief of staff to then-prime minister Tony Blair, told the BBC that Russia had used the incident to bring in a law to crack down on foreign non-governmental organisations.

"There's not much you can say. The spy rock was embarrassing," Powell said in a programme to be broadcast by the BBC on Thursday.

"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."

Transmitter in rock

Russian television had in January 2006 broadcast footage of what it said was a British agent picking up a fake rock in a Moscow street.

It showed a transmitter hidden inside the rock and said it had been used by British diplomats to pass messages.

Russia's security service, the FSB, then alleged that Britain was making covert payments to pro-democracy and human rights groups.

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, the country's president at the time, introduced a law shortly afterwards restricting all foreign funding to NGOs.

A spokesperson for Britain's foreign ministry said the government did not have any inappropriate relationships with Russian NGOs.

"But we don't comment on intelligence matters or individual cases," he added.

Warming relations

Tony Brenton, Britain's ambassador in Moscow at the time, also told the BBC that all activities with NGOs had been "completely above board".

Russian authorities made no official response to Powell's comments.

But Nikolai Kovalyov, the former head of the FSB and now a parliamentary deputy, told the RIA Novosti news agency that the British admission was aimed at warming relations with Russia.

"This is one of the few cases when on an official, political level such an official admission is made," he said.

"The admission we heard is a serious signal from London that it is time to improve our relations," he said, predicting that it could be used by Britain to claim its greater openness.

Britain and Russia have had frosty relations for years, particularly over the poisoning with radioactive polonium in London of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko later in 2006.

Joking around

British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Moscow in September for the first time since the death of Litvinenko, a former agent in the Soviet Union's KGB security agency, in a bid to heal relations.

Although the two countries acknowledged a failure to solve differences over Litvinenko, they sealed trade deals worth more than $300m.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev even joked during the visit that Cameron would make a good KGB spy.

Britain suspects Andrei Lugovoi, a former FSB agent who now represents the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in parliament of murdering Litvinenko, but Russia refuses to extradite him.

Read more on:    david cameron  |  dmitry medvedev  |  vladimir putin  |  uk  |  russia  |  espionage
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Africa
 

Device lets disabled people talk through their nose

A device that converts nose breaths into speech will open new doors for people with Parkinson’s or motor neuron disease.

 
 

For chic geeks...

It’s THIS easy for someone to steal your ATM pin!
This is why you should install iOS 8
17 photo illusions that look so real
Check out the speed of this robo-cheetah!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Don`t judge so quickly or expect too much, be more accepting and understanding and make space for fun and spontaneity. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.