Russian defence attache expelled over spying charge


Cleverly cited the cases of six Bulgarians charged with being part of a Russian spy ring operating in the UK….repors Asian Lite News

Russia’s defence attache is to be expelled after James Cleverly identified him as a spy. Maxim Elovik, a colonel in the Russian military, is to be thrown out of the UK as part of sanctions by the Home Secretary in response to a rise in “malign” Russian activity across Britain and Europe.

Cleverly also announced several Russian-owned properties suspected of being used as spying bases would lose their diplomatic status and there would be visa restrictions on Russian diplomats that would cap the time they were allowed to stay in the UK.

The measures come after an arson attack on a Ukrainian-linked business in east London that the authorities suspect was orchestrated by the Kremlin. Five people have been charged over the warehouse fire.

The attack was part of an alleged conspiracy involving the Wagner Group, a Russian band of mercenaries with strong ties to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

Cleverly also cited the cases of six Bulgarians charged with being part of a Russian spy ring operating in the UK.

He said the sanctions were to make clear to Russia that the UK would “not tolerate such apparent escalations” and aimed to “target and dismantle Russian intelligence gathering”. The defence attache was being expelled as an “undeclared military intelligence officer,” he said.

It is thought to be the first diplomatic expulsion since Theresa May threw 23 Russian diplomats out in 2018, following the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Col Elovik, who has been stationed in Britain for more than a decade, has been a regular attendee at events, representing Russian military interests.

They included Lord Balfe, a Conservative peer who once advised David Cameron’s government on public sector pay and trade union relations. Lord Balfe confirmed to The Sunday Times he had a conversation with the military attache.

In 2014, Col Elovik travelled to the Surrey home of a British war veteran to award him the Russian Medal of Ushakov for courage and bravery for service in the Arctic convoys.

Last year – on the 80th anniversary of the siege of Leningrad – he was photographed in public laying a wreath at a memorial to Soviet soldiers in central London. In 2020, he visited HMS Belfast alongside the Royal Navy’s assistant chief of naval staff for a 15-minute service of remembrance.

Protesters picketed his offices in Highgate at the outbreak of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, holding aloft a sign that said: “This is the house of the Military Attaché of Russia. Stop Putin”.

Several Russian-owned properties are to be stripped of their diplomatic status, which means they no longer have legal immunity from the jurisdiction of Britain and could be entered by law enforcement authorities.

They include the luxury 50-room Seacox Heath in Hawkhurst, Sussex which is used as a weekend retreat by Russian embassy staff, and the embassy’s trade and defence section in Highgate, north London, which Mr Cleverly said was believed to be a spy base.

Andrey Kelin, the Russian ambassador has been summoned to be told of the measures and to “reiterate that Russia’s actions will not be tolerated”, said the Home Office.

Cleverly told MPs there had been an escalating pattern of “malign” Russian activity across Europe including sabotage, espionage, cyber attacks, air space incursions and GPS jamming.

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