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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 January 2006, 11:47 GMT
UK 'spy' case under press surveillance
Russian press

Russian press comment on allegations by Moscow that British diplomats have been involved in espionage ranges from the indignant to the wry, with some commentators questioning the official Russian version.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta considers it "probably the biggest scandal in recent years", while Komsomolskaya Pravda believes "the row that has broken out between Russia and Great Britain is no laughing matter".

"An entire recruitment institute may already be functioning in Russia thanks to money from the British intelligence service, MI6," says the Komsomolskaya Pravda report.

Evidence of how foreign special services are operating on Russian territory is regularly uncovered
Krasnaya Zvezda

The story comes as no surprise to the army paper Krasnaya Zvezda. "It is obvious that far from all NGOs are operating within the proper limits. Most NGOs in Russia are known to have been established, financed and run under the patronage of the governments and public organisations of the USA and its Nato allies."

"And evidence of how foreign special services are operating on Russian territory through such organisations is regularly uncovered."

UK under fire

A commentator in Gazeta takes the opportunity to attack the UK for serving as a refuge for Chechen separatists and Russian oligarchs.

"Great Britain is guilty not just because it gives asylum. Its NGOs, which are truly independent organisations, dare to speak of mass violations of human rights in Russia."

"The Russian embassy in London has to reply to heaps of letters from these organisations about torture in Kabarda-Balkaria or the disappearance of people in Nalchik," the Gazeta commentator writes.

"What's more, in November 2005 the British embassy calmly issued visas to former Russian inmates of Guantanamo so they could attend an international conference on torture," she rails.

An ordinary looking stone turned out to be a radio transmitter for latter-day James Bonds
Rossiyskaya Gazeta

"Both the USA and Russia are unhappy at the prospect of lawsuits being filed on behalf of our Muslims against their respective administrations."

Rossiyskaya Gazeta expects there to be "further highly sensational revelations in the near future" as it waits for the name to emerge of the Russian who allegedly spied for British intelligence.

It says he is currently being interrogated and "is not keeping quiet. As for his identity, one can assume with some degree of confidence that he is fairly high ranking, either an official, or a military man or a scientist".

'James Bonds'

"An ordinary looking stone turned out, on closer examination, to be a radio transmitter for latter-day James Bonds, Her Majesty's spies. Apparently there were four 007s," the Rossiyskaya Gazeta report says.

For a columnist in the business broadsheet Kommersant, the story raises more questions than it answers.

"I don't know which members of the British embassy staff in Moscow are combining the duties of diplomat and intelligence agent, but I am sure some are. These people exist in embassies all over the world."

"But, excuse me, what does all this have to do with what somebody showed on Russian national TV the day before yesterday?"

"That a trial has already been held and it has proved that the Britons were spying? Maybe the Britons have already been expelled? Or the court proved that the Helsinki Group took money from the Britons, who were acting in their capacity as spies, and carried out corresponding espionage assignments?"

"Or maybe the British spies really did sign the grant payments not in their espionage hours, but in their diplomatic working hours?"

The columnist suggests that the reporter might not be "a journalist, but an employee of the special services who is passing on his information for further investigation. But why then does he do it publicly, before the entire country?"

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

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