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Legislators Face Check Over British 'Spy' Ties

RIA Novosti

14:41 27/01/2012

MOSCOW, January 27 (RIA Novosti, Alexey Eremenko) - Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, will investigate lawmakers who had contacts with alleged British intelligence agent Marc Doe, deputy Alexander Khinshtein said on Friday.

Duma’s security committee has requested information on the compromised lawmakers from the Federal Security Service, which was the first to report the story, Khinshtein, who is also a deputy head of the security committee, said at a parliamentary session.

“We believe that information about contacts between foreign intelligence agents and lawmakers, who have access to classified information, mandates a serious check,” said Khinstein, who belongs to the ruling United Russia party.

Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Maj.-Gen. Sergei Sorokin spoke about lawmakers’ contacts with Doe in an interview for a documentary by Arkady Mamontov, aired on Rossia-1 state television last weekend.

Sorokin did not name the lawmakers, but said that Doe and Tony Brenton, the British ambassador to Russia from 2004 to 2008, were consulting them on rights legislation, and that Doe held seminars on human rights in Russian regions.

Back in 2006, Mamontov reported about unidentified Russian agents of the British intelligence contacting their spymasters, including Doe, through a “spy rock,” a piece of communication equipment disguised as a stone. The story was ridiculed for a spy scare at the time, but last week, Jonathan Powell, a former adviser to British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, confirmed Mamontov’s report.

Khinshtein could not give any names when contacted by RIA Novosti. An FSB spokesman reached by telephone could not immediately provide any details on Sorokin’s report, and an emailed request for comment was left unanswered by the time of this publication.

Khinshtein linked the incident in his Duma speech to current anti-government protests, saying that Western powers are supporting the protesters in hopes of toppling the current regime in Russia.

“Of course, the tens of thousands that rallied in the streets want to change the country for the better… but it’s obvious that Western support of these protest moods has a wholly other motivation,” said Khinshtein. He denied that his words were a “spy scare.”

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a prime target of the protests, alleged in December that their participants were being paid by the U.S. State Department. The accusation was later echoed by Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, but no evidence was provided.

“It’s just political PR” ahead of the presidential elections in March, said security services analyst Andrei Soldatov.

“Contact is not a crime in itself,” Soldatov added by telephone on Friday. He said that meeting with foreign officials and diplomats is part of a lawmaker’s job, and that even the FSB kept close ties with British intelligence in the early 2000s, down to its delegation getting a tour in London of the top-secret Cabinet Office Briefing Room, or COBR, in 2005.

Khinshtein also conceded the lawmakers may not have been aware of Doe’s alleged ties to intelligence.

“Maybe they were just played up,” he told RIA Novosti. But he said the Duma still wants to know their names and demand an explanation from them.

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