Moscow accuses British spies of trying to 'recruit' Russian diplomats

Russia accuses British spies of trying to ‘recruit’ the military attache of Moscow’s embassy in the Netherlands

  • Russia’s foreign ministry said spies approached Russian diplomat in The Hague
  • West’s secret services made several attempts to sway Russian diplomats, it said
  • Comes one week after a suspected Russian spy was arrested in north of Norway

Moscow on Monday summoned the Dutch ambassador to ‘protest strongly’ against the efforts of British spies to ‘recruit’ Russian diplomats in the Netherlands, Russia’s foreign ministry said.

Ambassador Gilles Beschoor Plug was called in to hear the protest from the Kremlin, which claimed representatives of the British intelligence services ‘made an attempt to recruit the military attache of Russia’s embassy in The Hague on October 20’.

‘Such provocative actions are unacceptable… and hinder the normal operation of Russian establishments abroad,’ it added.

The ministry also accused Western secret services of attempting several similar ‘provocations’ against Russian diplomats over recent years in the Netherlands.

MailOnline has contacted the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) for comment. 

It comes just one week after Norway’s security services arrested a man at the University of Tromsø who they believed was a Russian spy.  

Moscow on Monday summoned the Dutch ambassador to ‘protest strongly’ against the efforts of British spies to ‘recruit’ Russian diplomats in the Netherlands, Russia’s foreign ministry said (anti-war protesters pictured outside Russian embassy, The Hague)

Russia’s foreign ministry accused Western secret services of attempting several ‘provocations’ against Russian diplomats over recent years in the Netherlands (Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov pictured)

NATO-member Norway raises ‘military readiness’ as its neighbour Russia continues bloodshed in Ukraine 

NATO member Norway will raise its military readiness, its prime minister said on Monday, pointing to ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine as cause for greater caution.

‘The military will as of tomorrow raise its preparedness in Norway’, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, whose nation shares a land border with Russia in the Arctic circle, told reporters.

‘We currently have no reason to believe that Russia wants to involve Norway or any other country directly in the war, but the war in Ukraine means it is necessary for all NATO countries to be increasingly on their guard’, he added.

Norway has overtaken Russia as Europe’s main natural gas supplier following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Scandinavian country has already raised security around its strategic sites after mysterious drone flights were observed near its offshore oil and gas platforms and the suspected sabotage of Nord Stream’s Baltic Sea pipelines.

Russia’s foreign ministry cited numerous examples of incidences in which Western powers allegedly attempted to entice Russian diplomats into sharing sensitive information.

Representatives of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) made an approach ‘in a park’ in December 2018 to a Russian diplomat with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the ministry charged.

The following December, CIA agents tried at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport to ‘encourage’ an attache from Russia’s embassy to ‘cooperate’, the statement said.

Moscow accused authorities in the Netherlands of being complicit in ‘these illegitimate acts’.

It listed another case in April when ‘members of Dutch special services tried to recruit three Russian diplomats who had earlier been declared personae non gratae,’ ahead of their expulsion.

In July 2020, in The Hague, ‘surveillance equipment was discovered in the car of a (Russian) embassy diplomat, according to the statement.

Russia urged ‘Dutch authorities to refrain from these hostile acts which lead to a subsequent degradation in bilateral relations’.

The Hague should take ‘comprehensive measures to prevent such incidents in the future’, it said.

Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine has led to a wave of international condemnation and sanctions backed by the expulsion of hundreds of Russian diplomats from Western nations, some accused of spying.

Moscow has responded by sending home dozens of Western diplomats.

The Kremlin’s protest against alleged attempts by Western powers to recruit its diplomats follows the arrest of a suspected Russian spy in the Arctic town of Tromsø by Norwegian police.

The man, who worked as a researcher at the University of Tromsø, had posed as a Brazilian citizen but police believe his real identity to be Russian.

The man, who went by the name of José Assis Giammaria but whose real name is believed to be Mikhail Mikhushin, represents a ‘threat to fundamental national interests’ and should be expelled from Norway, deputy Norwegian police security service (PST) chief Hedvig Moe said, describing him as an ‘illegal agent’.

An illegal agent is an intelligence operative without official government links who assumes a covert persona, often using a real, dead person’s identity.

‘Typically illegal agents are talent scouts recruiting agents for later, and preparing the ground for other spies to do traditional intelligence work,’ said Moe.

The accused man’s lawyer did not return a request for comment.

The suspect was involved in a research group that worked with Norwegian government agencies on ‘hybrid threats’ linked to ‘Arctic Norway’, Moe said.

The arrest was made possible with the collaboration of ‘several’ international security services, declining to say from which countries.

‘It is a long-term project to have an illegal agent,’ said Moe. It costs a lot of money. Major state actors only use them and it is known Russia has used them in the past.’

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