Britain confirms Russia is accusing UK diplomat in Moscow of espionage

Russia has accused the British Embassy's top trade official in Moscow of espionage, the British Foreign Office confirmed Friday. The accusation appears likely to worsen Russian-British relations, already strained in part by the continuing fight for control at the TNK-BP oil company, which is jointly owned by the British company and Russian billionaires. The Interfax news agency, citing a source in Russia's secret services, reported Thursday that the head of the embassy's trade and investment section was believed to be a senior British intelligence officer. A Foreign Office spokesman on Friday confirmed that "the individual accused is acting director of UK trade and investment," but did not give a name. The Interfax report gave the name Christopher Bowers. The British Embassy Web site lists Chris Bowers as deputy director of the section; no director is listed. The former top trade official, Andrew Levi, was one of four British Embassy officials who were expelled from Moscow last summer.