As many as half of the 150,000 Russian citizens in London are allegedly informants, according to a new study by the Henry Jackson Society thinktank. The report has not failed in causing a new wave of “spy hysteria” in British media.
The 75,000 alleged informants are also actively assisting Moscow’s secret service. The study also warned of a huge increase of Russian case officers in the UK over the past eight years, with 200 officers handling an estimated 500 agents.
The report also claimed that approximately 50% of Russian Embassy diplomats are also allegedly actively engaged in intelligence work.
The report also claims that the number of spies outnumbers that of Cold War Levels. The Telegraph cited Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB colonel who was a double agent for MI6, estimated there were 39 Soviet case officers in 1985.
The modern spies, according to the Telegraph could be either staff that is working in the embassy in London or covert operatives who use false identities to pose as Britons or Russian nationals living in the UK.
The report said: “The primary task for Russia’s spies is to gather intelligence on individuals who currently occupy, or previously occupied, positions of influence and power, particularly those who are consequential to Russian affairs.”
“Russia’s embassy in Kensington currently maintains a staff of 56 diplomats, around half of whom, government sources suggest, are believed to be engaged in intelligence work – both declared and undeclared,” the report added.
The thinktank called for the Government to redouble its efforts in combating “the threat posed by Russia.” Furthermore, it called for officials to consider revoking Parliamentary access to media outlets who “play host to Russian spies.”
Andrew Foxall, the report’s author, said the study “shines a light upon the activities of Russia’s cloistered intelligence agencies in Britain. The threat they pose harks back to a darker age.” He added that alleged Russian spies are also partaking in other operations, not just “assassinations” such as the poisoning of Skripal. “Instead, they are busy delivering Russia’s full suite of “active measures” as part of a broad and malevolent effort to undermine our society,” he said.
“For too long, Britain’s security policy has been premised upon the naïve assumption that Russia has given up its Cold-War mind-set. This report shows that Russia’s spycraft is just as audacious as it has ever been.”
The former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove backed the report, saying that it “forcefully reminds us that Russian intelligence activity in the West is still large scale and intrusive, and that we need to devote significant resources and expertise ourselves to monitoring and blunting this threat to our national security. As during the Cold War, an effective counterintelligence capability remains an essential part of our own intelligence and security community.”
The Russian embassy in London dismissed the study as “political paranoia” in a tweet.
Vladimir Ashurkov, a Russian political figure also supported the claims presented by the report. The Times presented Ashurkov as a “Russian expat.” However, in 2014 he was charged by Russia’s Investigative Committee with embezzlement of funds from Alexei Navalny’s 2013 mayoral campaign. He applied for political asylum in Great Britain, claiming that the charges were politically motivated.
The method in which the study discovered the “facts” it presents hasn’t been disclosed. However, the hysteria about “Russian spies,” “Russian aggression,” as well as “secret Russian military bases” shows no sign of stopping. Sooner, rather than later it wouldn’t be surprising if it became so common that outlets, especially British ones began reporting when a Russian citizen is discovered to not be an alleged spy, since those individuals appear to be a minority.