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In Cold War throwback,Russia jails spy for selling secrets to UK

Written by: Staff

MOSCOW, Aug 9 (Reuters) A Russian double agent was jailed for 13 years today for selling details of Russia's spy network to Britain's secret service.

In a case that echoed Cold War spy scandals, a military court found 55-year-old Sergei Skripal guilty of high treason and spying and stripped him of his rank of colonel, Russia's Chief Military Prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky told reporters.

Skripal was ''turned'' by Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, in the mid-1990s and until his arrest in 2004 he helped blow the cover of dozens of Russian spies working abroad, an intelligence source said.

''Through his actions, the spy inflicted significant damage on the defence capability and security of the state,'' said a spokesman for Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).

Skripal was paid more than 100,000 dollars which was deposited in a Spanish bank account. Details of the case have not previously been made public.

Skripal was arrested after a probe by the FSB, which is responsible for counter-intelligence. Officials said he pleaded guilty at the trial, which was held behind closed doors.

It was unclear which Russian intelligence service employed him.

The FSB said he was a colonel in the Russian military. The military has its own intelligence arm called the GRU.

''He was turned by British special services in the mid-1990s and until 2004, when he was detained, he gave them top secret information for money,'' Yevgeny Komissarov, a spokesman for the military court, told reporters.

The FSB said Skripal continued to sell information to MI6 even after he left his post in the special services in 1999.

Spy scandals, recurring thorns in British-Russian relations during the Cold War, are less frequent now although both sides accuse each other of running spying operations.

In January, Russian television broadcast footage which it said showed British spies transmitting information via a receiver concealed inside a rock on a Moscow street. It said the spies were working as diplomats at the British embassy.

The FSB backed up the television report but none of the diplomats was ordered to leave the country.

Under Russia's criminal code, treason can be punished with a sentence of 12 to 20 years. Skripal has 10 days to appeal against the conviction.

A spokesman for the British embassy in Moscow declined to comment. ''It is our policy never to comment on intelligence matters,'' the spokesman said.


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