Russia charges two American brothers with spying

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Moscow, Mar 21 (UNI) Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has charged two Amercian brothers with commercial espionage.

The FSB arrested Ilya Zaslavsky, an employee TNK-BP, along with his brother Alexander, who has links with the British Council, for ''illegally gathering secret commercial information for the benefit of several foreign oil and gas companies, in order to give them advantages over Russian competitors''.

According to FSB spokesman Sergei Ignachenko, the two brothers were apprehended during an attempt to obtain commercial classified information from a citizen of Russia, an employee of one of the closed Russian oil and gas companies.

The FSB conducted a search in the offices of TNK-BP, one of the largest crude producers in Russia, on March 19, during which they found material evidence confirming the industrial espionage. The Moscow office of British oil major BP was also raided by police.

Mr Ignachenko said, among the documents seized during the search, they found copies of Russian government documents, analytical reports relating to subsurface resources management, preliminarily rated as commercial classified information, as well as visiting cards of representatives of foreign military agencies and the CIA.

The Zaslavsky brothers later were released, but are not allowed to leave the country.

The British Council, the UK Embassy's cultural arm, said Ilya Zaslavsky was not on its staff but was a member of the embassy's alumni club for foreign graduates of British universities.

The British Council, whose regional offices in Russia were closed down earlier this year over alleged tax violations, expressed its concern over the arrests.

Russia denied there was a connection between the two matters.

''There is no sense in looking for a connection between these two completely separate cases,'' Deputy Head of the Foreign Ministry's information and press department Andrei Krivtsov told reporters.

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