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FSB Identifies Man In British Spy Flap

The Federal Security Service on Friday identified the citizen whom the Britain foreign intelligence agency MI6 purportedly tried to recruit as Vyacheslav Zharko, a former member of a special forces unit.

An FSB duty officer confirmed news reports that Zharko was the man whose supposed recruitment by MI6 was announced earlier in the week by FSB director Nikolai Patrushev. The duty officer refused to give any more details.

The FSB has said Zharko turned over the names of British intelligence officers he had met with and other details.

Britain's Home Office declined to comment on the Russian allegations.

"We wouldn't comment on the activities of the intelligence services," a Home Office spokeswoman said, speaking anonymously in line with government policy. "People can say what they want, but we have nothing more to add."

Meanwhile, in an unusual documentary film broadcast by NTV television, a man who was identified as Zharko described how he befriended exiled tycoon and Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky in the late 1990s in London, and how he eventually came to meet Alexander Litvinenko, the former FSB officer who was poisoned late last year.

Litvinenko, he said, eventually introduced him to British secret agents in London. He said he was paid initially up to 2,000 euros a month to gather information on the Russian economy.

By 2005, British spies were pressing him for information on the FSB and Russian counterintelligence efforts directed against British spies, Zharko said.

Britain last month accused Andrei Lugovoi, a former FSB officer, of killing Litvinenko, and requested his extradition. Russian authorities have tried to turn the tables on Britain by opening their own investigation into allegations of British espionage made by Lugovoi, who also said British secret services and Berezovsky could have had a hand in Litvinenko's death.

Zharko told NTV that he feared for his life after Litvinenko's death, and that after Lugovoi's accusation toward British agents, he decided to turn himself into the FSB. Two weeks ago, he said he received call from a man with a British accent asking him whether he could meet with one of two men he suggested were British spies.

"Then I realized that if I made a step forward and meet with them, I'll close the door to my country. And I don't want that," he told NTV.

(The Moscow Times 02.vii.07)

 
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