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Monday, November 12, 2007

Russian Spies Swarm Britian, Create Terror Risks

The Times of London reports that frenzied, aggressive spying by Russia is forcing British authorities to divert resources from their fight against terrorism. In other words, Vladimir Putin is acting in league with Osama Bin Laden

A 23-YEAR-OLD man has been arrested under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly attempting to pass military information to the Russians. The suspect, who lives in Yorkshire, had worked at a government establishment but is not a former serviceman. He was arrested in a Metropolitan Police operation on Wednesday. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman confirmed a suspect was being held at a Yorkshire police station. She said he had been arrested under the Official Secrets Act and for a suspected explosives offence after certain materials were found. It is claimed the man, from Skipton, North Yorkshire, was trying to leak military secrets from his previous occupation to the Russians. Scotland Yard would not comment on the allegations. Police have searched a residential and business address linked to the suspect. He had only recently moved to Yorkshire.

One of the most recent cases of an arrest under the Official Secrets Act involved Ian Parr, a former employee at BAE Systems Avionics. He subsequently admitted the offences and was jailed for 10 years in April 2003. Parr, from Rochford, Essex, tried to sell the Russian confidential details of seven defence projects, including a missile system then being deployed in Iraq. He met his “contact” in a pub but later found out he was in fact trying to betray his country to an undercover MI5 officer. Sentencing Parr, Judge Michael Hyam said the sentence reflected the seriousness of the offences. “I cannot accept that you were so naive that you did not know what you were doing was a risk to the nation’s security,” he said.

UK-Russia relations have deteriorated in the last two years. There was particular anger that the Russian authorities refused to extradite suspects thought to be involved in the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer who died of radiation poisoning last November. Last July the British government expelled four Russian diplomats from London in response to the lack of cooperation over the Litvinenko investigation. The Kremlin responded by expelling four British embassy staff. The security and intelligence services are known to be on alert over the passing of British defence secrets to Russia. Just two days before last week’s arrest Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, warned of the continuing espionage threat from Russia.

“There has been no decrease in the numbers of Russian intelligence officers conducting covert activity in the UK, despite the cold war ending nearly two decades ago,” he said. “MI5 is expending resources to defend the UK against unreconstructed attempts by Russians, and others, to spy on the UK. “The size and nature of this threat means that MI5 still has to devote significant amounts of equipment, money and staff to countering this threat, when they could be devoted to countering the threat from international terrorism.”

Last night Peter Hill, 23, a risk analyst, was charged for possession of explosive materials including sodium chlorate and a metal hollow tube. He was bailed until April next year pending further inquiries into alleged breaches of the Official Secrets Act.

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