Russia Arrests U.K.-Connected Brothers for Spying

March 21, 2008 01:45 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Russia’s security service arrested Alexander and Ilya Zaslavsky for espionage in the energy sector. The move is likely to put a further strain on tense Anglo-Russian relations.

30-Second Summary

The Zaslavsky brothers have dual U.S.-Russian citizenship and are prominent members of the British Alumni Club in Russia. The Times of London describes the club as “a networking group under the patronage of the British Council that brings together thousands of Russians who have studied in Britain.”

Ilya worked for TNK-BP, a venture of the British oil company BP. The police have seized documents from the Moscow headquarters of TNK-BP, where they allegedly found "material evidence" of industrial espionage.

A spokesman for Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) stated, “The brothers were illegally collecting classified commercial information for a number of foreign hydrocarbon companies, which wished to have advantages over their Russian rivals,” reports the Times of London.

Russia has accused the British Alumni Club of spying in the recent past. Earlier this year, Russia’s Foreign Ministry shut down the British Council’s regional offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.

The dispute between Britain and Russia goes back to November 2006, when Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko died in London having been poisoned with a radioactive isotope. Moscow refused to extradite murder suspect Andrei Lugovoi, and Britain expelled four Russian diplomats.

Yesterday’s arrests also highlight the Kremlin’s past treatment of the private energy industry, in particular Russian gas company Yukos.

After the president of the private oil giant had a public dispute with President Vladimir Putin in 2003, Russia began arresting members of Yukos and seizing its assets. Yukos declared bankruptcy in 2006.

The Russian state holds a majority of shares in the country's largest energy conglomerate, Gazprom.

Headline Links: Brother’s arrest strains tense Anglo-Russian relations

Background: The Anglo-Russian row and the struggle for Russia’s oil business

Britain and Russia’s strained relationship
Yukos, and the battle for Russian oil supremacy

Related Links: Civil liberties in Russia


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