Number of Russian spies in Britain ‘back at Cold War levels’

Russian embassy in LondonBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
The Russian Federation has as many intelligence officers operating in the United Kingdom today as it did during the last decade of the Cold War, according to a British newspaper. The London-based Daily Telegraph cites “senior sources” in alleging that Moscow maintains “around 40 [spies] at any one time” in the UK. Many of them are reportedly based in London, where approximately half the staff at the Russian embassy are believed to be routinely involved in intelligence gathering, says the paper. The Telegraph shared the information with Dr Jonathan Eyal, Director of International Security Studies at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, who told the paper that the numbers of Russian spies in the UK are “similar to if not higher than those just before the end of the Cold War”. Undoubtedly, writes The Telegraph, some of the Russian intelligence officers stationed in Britain are involved in traditional intelligence collection directed at UK government institutions and personnel. But increasing numbers of them are focusing on the growing Russian expatriate community in the UK, including the many oligarchs whose relations with the Kremlin are strained at best. A smaller but significant number of Russian intelligence operatives are believed to conduct commercial and industrial spying aimed at benefiting Russian firms competing against their British counterparts for international contracts, claims the paper. Dr Eyal adds that Russian intelligence agencies have traditionally viewed Britain —a staunch American ally— as a “back door to US intelligence”, thus Washington constitutes yet another target of Russian intelligence activity in the UK. Read more of this post

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