RUBBLE O-SEVEN; EXCLUSIVE THE MOSCOW SPY SCANDAL Did Diplomats at Our Embassy Use This Fake Rock to Unearth Secrets of the Kremlin?

Article excerpt

Byline: By CHRIS HUGHES, Security Correspondent and WILL STEWART in Moscow

BRITAIN is locked in a bizarre James Bond-style scandal after our diplomats in Moscow were accused of secretly contacting spies - using a fake rock.

A Russian state TV station last night claimed MI6 disguised a hi-tech transmitter to look like a rock and placed it in a park on the outskirts of the city.

Agents allegedly recruited by Britain would send top secret information to the rock's transmitter.

British secret service men then visited the rock and furtively downloaded the data onto palm-top computers, it was claimed. Yesterday Russian state TV station Rossiya showed footage it says was shot on hidden cameras.

It showed a string of men alleged to be British diplomats walking up to the rock with hand-held computers.

The programme includes interviews with men said to be officers in the Russian intelligence service FSB - the successors to the feared KGB.

They claimed the data passed to the British came from various radical groups opposed to President Putin's regime.

But the FSB's Colonel Sergei Ignatchenko said of the British: "We caught them red-handed while they were in contact with their agents."

Another FSB man told how they discovered the fake rock. He said: "At first we thought it was just a hiding place, a kind of container which was made to look like a rock.

"Later when our specialists made a checked the object we discovered it contained sophisticated electronic devices."

The man claimed the FSB secretly Xrayed the fake rock and found it stuffed with electronic devices, long-life batteries, a transmitter and a receiver.

The programme showed film of a man approaching the rock holding a hand-held computer. A voice-over explained what was going on.

It said: "Here we see how he comes close to the rock, holding the device in his hands. You can see how he tries to retrieve information.

"It looks like something goes wrong with the process because first he walks to one side and then he changes direction and walks to another side but still the information doesn't come.

"Then he goes closer to the trees as if pretending that he wants to relieve himself."

The footage then showed a man zipping up his flies as the voice said: "By using these false movements he comes close to the rock and kicks it."

The officer said it was thought he did this as the rock was not transmitting because of a technical problem.

At one point a man carrying a studentstyle rucksack is seen picking up the rock and carrying it off.

The programme named four British diplomats seen at the rock who it claimed were really MI6 agents.

It also claimed a Russian recruited by the British had been arrested.

The Russian, said to have attended a British university, was also reported to be in charge of British payments to anti-Putin groups. …