Russia’s ability to spy on Europe has taken the “most significant strategic blow” in recent history following coordinated expulsions of diplomats since the invasion of Ukraine, which saw 100 diplomatic visa applications denied in the UK alone in recent years, it said. head of the Russian Federation. British security services, MI5.
Ken McCallum, the director-general of MI5, said in an annual speech outlining threats to the UK that 600 Russian officials had been expelled from Europe this year, 400 of whom his office said were spies.
“We have continued to work intensively to make the UK the most difficult working environment for Russian covert action,” McCallum said. “In the case of the UK, since our removal for 23 Russian spies posing as diplomats, we have denied more than 100 diplomatic visa applications for reasons of national security… the serious point is that the UK must be ready for Russian aggression for the next few years.”
In comments after the speech, McCallum called the evictions “a very, very big dent in the Russians’ call for positioning across Europe,” adding that data on agents was being shared between European allies, so that “it’s not easy for the Russians to cross one”. spy “expelled from country A to country D.”
He added: “I hope that what will remain true is that a very large body of trained, experienced Russian intelligence talent, if I may use that term, will be of much less use and that most other parts of the world for many years years to come.”
The speech also revealed a growing threat of foul play by the Iranian state, including “ambitions to kidnap or kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime,” McCallum said. He revealed there have been 10 such potential threats since January in the UK alone.
In later comments, he added that Iran was “ready to take reckless action” and characterized them as a “sophisticated adversary.” He said: “They have sometimes used their own agents to do things with their own hands. And on other occasions they have co-opted other people to work on their behalf.”
McCallum said terrorism remains an enduring threat and eight “potentially deadly plots” have been stopped in the past year. He estimated that three-quarters of them related to Islamist extremism and a quarter to far-right terrorism. He added that the latter extremism was increasingly attracting younger Britons, with the “youngest case I can remember, terrible … where the person who possibly caused a threat was 13 years old.” He declined to give details.
Among state actors, China represents “the UK’s most pioneering strategic challenge,” he said. “We see the Chinese authorities playing the long game in cultivating contacts to manipulate opinion in China’s favor – not only are they trying to co-opt and influence prominent parliamentarians across the political landscape, but people are much more easily in their career in public life, gradually a debt of obligation.”