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Russian convicted spy colonel worked for Britain's MI6

RIA Novosti

09/08/2006 14:15

MOSCOW, August 9 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian military intelligence colonel sentenced to 13 years in prison Wednesday spied for the United Kingdom, Russia's main security service said.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) said retired officer Sergei Skripal, 55, who was convicted of "treason in the form of espionage", had been recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6.

"The investigation into the case ... established that during his service in the Russian Armed Forces in the mid-1990s, Skripal was recruited by British intelligence and shared state secrets with it," the FSB said in a news release.

Russia's respected daily Izvestia said Wednesday that Skripal had started cooperating with MI6 during a long-term overseas posting in the late 1990s.

The FSB also said that after he retired from military service in late 1999, Skripal continued to cooperate with MI6 and met with its representatives outside Russia.

"Skripal had received the secret information that he reported to the British services from former colleagues after leaving the military," the FSB said. "His actions caused serious damage to the national defense and security."

The FSB also said that MI6 officials had paid Skripal for the information in foreign currency, which was transferred monthly to his account in a Spanish bank.

Court spokesman Yevgeny Komissarov said Skripal had received at least a total of $100,000 for his collaboration.

Izvestia said Skripal had shared information about dozens of his former colleagues operating in Europe under cover, in particular, their secret meeting venues, addresses and passwords.

The paper said the Russian agents were shadowed by MI6 and after awhile they were recalled to Moscow and replaced. Given it takes years to train each agent, Russian special services sustained substantial damage, the paper said.

The FSB said that Skripal had admitted his guilt and gave truthful testimony about his activities, which the court had taken into consideration.

Chief Military Prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky said he was satisfied with the verdict, adding that Skripal would serve his sentence in a high-security penal colony.

"Skripal was accused of spying for foreign intelligence services," the prosecutor said, adding that Russia's security services would definitely be able to repair the damage Skripal did to the state.

Fridinsky said he had asked the court to sentence Skripal to 15 years, but the court had taken into account mitigating circumstances such as the convict's admission of guilt, assistance to the investigation and poor health.

Court spokesman Komissarov said Skripal had found the verdict harsh because the court stripped him of his rank, which he had asked to be allowed to keep.

Izvestia said Skripal had been arrested in December 2004 on treason charges. The investigation lasted a year and a half. The case was submitted to court in late June 2006, and the lawsuit continued for more than a month.

A major spying scandal clouded relations between Russia and the U.K. at the start of the year, when Moscow claimed four British agents in the Russian capital had been caught procuring information from a high-tech communication device disguised as a rock.

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