Sunday 22 January 2017

British admit using 'spy rock' to get Russian data

Nick Collins in London

Published 19/01/2012 | 05:00

IT WAS a spy plot so far-fetched that it would be worthy of James Bond -- a transmitter concealed inside an artificial rock by British agents and placed next to a Russian street in order to steal classified data.

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But the "spy rock" diplomatic row that damaged relations between Britain and Russia in early 2006 was not a work of fiction. Britain initially laughed off accusations from Moscow that spies had been caught "red-handed" using the fake rock to contact agents and download sensitive information.

Six years on, Tony Blair's former chief of staff Jonathan Powell has admitted that the "embarrassing" episode was true and not far-fetched Russian propaganda.

In an interview for 'Putin, Russia and the West', a BBC series which starts tonight, Mr Powell reveals: "They had us bang to rights. Clearly, they had known about it for some time and had been saving it up for a political purpose."

The incident was broadcast on Russian TV at a time when its government was seeking to justify new restrictive laws on human rights and pro-democracy campaigners.

The FSB, the Russian intelligence service, broadcast close-ups and X-rays of a hollowed-out rock filled with circuitry and accused four British men and one Russian of using a transmitter inside to download information. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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