Russian security service reports it barefaced spying activity by four British diplomats

Russia's main security agency has uncovered spying activities by four British diplomats, a Federal Security Service duty officer said Wednesday. The officer, who refused to give his name, confirmed Russian news reports that cited FSB chief Sergei Ignatchenko, as saying that the activities were discovered during an operation in Moscow.

Officials at the British Embassy in Moscow declined to comment. The announcement came one day after Russian state-run television broadcast footage showing copies of documents it said showed Britain had transferred money to non-governmental organizations working in Russia.

In a statement released following the Sunday evening broadcast, Britain's Foreign Office rejected allegations that its dealings with Russian NGOs were improper.

"It is well-known that the British government has financially supported projects implemented by Russian NGOs in the field of human rights and civil society. All our assistance is given openly and aims to support the development of a healthy civil society in Russia," the statement said.

Ignatcgenko last year accused U.S. and other foreign intelligence services of using NGOs to spy on Russia and foment political upheaval in ex-Soviet republics.

Under legislation signed into law earlier this month by President Vladimir Putin, NGOs face tighter regulations on their financing and activities, reports the AP.

D.M.