UK to expel Russian defence attache over Moscow’s ‘dangerous activities’

British government terms Maxim Elovik an ‘undeclared military intelligence officer’ as Russia promises an ‘appropriate response’.

James Cleverly
Home Secretary James Cleverly said the measures were aimed at what he called the 'reckless and dangerous activities of the Russian government across Europe' [File: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP]

The British government says it will expel Russia’s defence attache over spying allegations as part of several measures targeting Moscow’s intelligence-gathering operations in the United Kingdom.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said on Wednesday the measures were aimed at what he called the “reckless and dangerous activities of the Russian government across Europe”.

The latest round of measures will boot the attache, Maxim Elovik, a Russian colonel whom the government termed an “undeclared military intelligence officer”. It will also rescind the diplomatic status of several Russian-owned properties because they are believed to have been used for intelligence purposes, and impose new restrictions on Russian diplomatic visas and visits.

“In the coming days we should expect accusations of Russophobia, conspiracy theories and hysteria from the Russian government,” Cleverly said in Parliament. “This is not new and the British people and the British government will not fall for it, and will not be taken for fools by Putin’s bots, trolls and lackeys.”

The Russian embassy in London responded by saying that British restrictions against Russia had been imposed under a “groundless and ridiculous pretext”, and it promised “an appropriate response”, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

The UK has had an uneasy relationship with Russia for years, accusing its agents of targeted killings and espionage, including cyberattacks aimed at British parliamentarians and leaking and amplifying sensitive information to serve Russian interests.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK has also sanctioned hundreds of wealthy Russians and moved to clamp down on money laundering through London’s property and financial markets.

The government said Wednesday’s actions followed criminal cases in London alleging espionage and sabotage by people acting on behalf of Russia.

It also cited allegations that the Russian government planned to sabotage military aid for Ukraine in Germany and Poland and carried out spying in Bulgaria and Italy, along with cyber- and disinformation activities, airspace violations and jamming GPS signals to hamper civilian air traffic.

“Since the illegal invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s attempts to undermine UK and European security have become increasingly brazen,” Foreign Secretary David Cameron said. “These measures are an unequivocal message to the Russian state – their actions will not go unanswered.”

Elovik has been based in the UK since at least 2020. TASS said he was summoned to the UK’s Ministry of Defence the day Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

He has subsequently been pictured laying flowers to Soviet soldiers who died during the second world war in both London and Manchester.

Source: News Agencies