19 Jan 2012

Britain used fake rock to spy on Russia

7:39 pm on 19 January 2012

A former British official has admitted that secret agents used intelligence equipment disguised as a rock to spy on Russia.

A Russian television documentary in 2006 claimed it had filmed four British spies using a transmitter hidden in a fake rock in a Moscow park.

The British government dismissed the story at the time, but Jonathan Powell, a former Chief of Staff to then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has admitted to the BBC that the incident was genuine and embarrassing.

The story was first screened on Russian television, which ran a report showing how the rock contained electronic equipment and had been used by British diplomats to receive and transmit information.

The BBC reports it showed a video of a man walking along the pavement of a Moscow street, slowing his pace, glancing at a rock and slowing down, then picking up his pace. The camera then films another man, who walks by and picks up the rock.

The Russian security service linked the rock with allegations that British security services were making covert payments to pro-democracy and human rights groups.

Shortly afterwards, then President Vladimir Putin introduced a law restricting non-governmental organisations from getting funding from foreign governments. Many closed down as a result.