Information intelligence has formed a cornerstone of Russian military and defence doctrine for decades. But European countries have expelled over 400 undercover Russian operatives since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine back in February, the head of MI6 has said.
Richard Moore, who heads up the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service and is the only serving member of the service to be publicly identified, said the efforts across the continent cut Russia’s capabilities “by half”.
He told CNN at the Aspen Security Forum: “Across Europe, roughly half – at last count, something north of 400 Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover have been expelled.”
“We reckon in the UK, that’s probably reduced their ability to do their business, to spy for Russia in Europe, by half.”
He added that a number of “illegals”, or operatives pretending to be civilians, have been arrested and jailed, one for a decade and a half.
This comes just days after a report revealed spies believed to be working for Russia’s foreign intelligence service were targeting NATO countries.
The hackers were using Google Drive, Dropbox and other online storage providers to hide, according to cyber security company Palo Alto Networks.
Accounts would hook the attempted victims in through phishing emails, and targeted a number of NATO bases in May and June 2022.
A Dropbox spokesperson told Sky News: “We can confirm that we worked with our industry partners and the researchers on this matter, and disabled user accounts immediately.”
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“They scoop up all forms of intelligence and pass it back to the Kremlin through handlers.
“This could be anything from what sort of weaponry is being sent to the Ukraine – and how much of it – to the sexual antics of the country’s political and military leaders.”
Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda, has previously said it was likely there were Russian operatives inside the Houses of Parliament.
According to the Mirror, he said it was likely a “handful” of Russian spies were working in London’s corridors of power.
He said: “If the war is prolonged then I think we will see Russia reverting back to old Cold War-style spying techniques.”
Former Russian spy Boris Karpichkov told The Sun: “I know of four sleepers of Russian security services.
“There are several Parliament-sponsored organisations operating in Westminster directly linked to Russian security service operations.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We have made huge strides in recent years to counter the threat posed by the Russian state and to increase our resilience and that of our allies to Russian malign activity.”