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British Council rejects Russian spying allegation

The British Council rejected on Tuesday comments made by Russian president-elect Dmitry Medvedev suggesting that the organization is linked to British intelligence-gathering activities.

When asked by the Financial Times last Friday whether he believed the British Embassy's cultural arm was involved in spying in Russia, Medvedev said: "The information that from time to time appears in the press and the reports that I get as one of the leaders of the country show that there is a problem with this."

"This is not very surprising because these types of organizations are traditionally used for the collection of information," said Medvedev, who will become Russia's president on May 7.

A spokesman for the council told RIA Novosti: "The British Council does not cooperate with intelligence services of the U.K."

Russia ordered the closure of the British Council's offices in Russian regions in January following accusations of legal status irregularities and tax arrears, and amid growing tensions between Russia and the U.K.

Media attention was again focused on the organization last week, when reports emerged that two brothers with Russian-U.S. citizenship, one of whom has links with the British Council, had been arrested for industrial espionage.

The Federal Security Service arrested TNK-BP's Ilya Zaslavsky along with his brother Alexander on March 12 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."

RIA Novosti

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