RUS­SIAN TV SPIES CAUGHT AT SE­CRET UK ARMY BASE

The Mail on Sunday - - Free Inside - By Mark Ni­col

A TOP-LEVEL se­cu­rity alert has been is­sued at ev­ery mil­i­tary base in Bri­tain af­ter a Rus­sian TV crew was caught ‘spy­ing’ at the UK’s se­cret cy­ber war­fare HQ.

Troops have been o r dered to ur­gently con­tact po­lice if they spot a re­porter and cam­era­man from Rus­sia’s main state broad­caster loi­ter­ing near mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions. The dra- matic and un­prece­dented move came af­ter jour­nal­ist Timur Si­ra­ziev was seen se­cretly film­ing close to the 25ft barbed wire perime­ter fence of the 77th Brigade – a top se­cret Army unit that works along­side MI5, MI6 and the SAS in elec­tronic and psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare.

Se­cu­rity cam­eras at t he unit’s base in Berk­shire recorded Si­ra­ziev mak­ing re­peated passes of the highly sen­si­tive fa­cil­ity as a cam­era­man, un­der­stood to be Dmitry Volkov,

filmed from the pas­sen­ger seat of his car. De­fence Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson has been in­formed of the Novem­ber 21 in­ci­dent while in­tel­li­gence chiefs launched an im­me­di­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Be­cause Si­ra­ziev, 39, works for Moscow- based Putin mouth­piece Chan­nel One, mil­i­tary chiefs is­sued an of­fi­cial se­cu­rity warn­ing to com­man­ders at all of Bri­tain’s mil­i­tary camps.

The alert, which has been leaked to The Mail on Sun­day, is marked ‘of­fi­cial-sen­si­tive’ and warns sol­diers that the re­porter tried to gain en­try to the 77th Brigade’s heav­ily guarded base, Denison Bar­racks, which is set in dense wood­land near the vil­lage of Her­mitage.

It warns troops not to ap­proach or en­gage in con­ver­sa­tion with him if they are alone but to con­tact po­lice im­me­di­ately. Bri­tish sol­diers do not have the same pow­ers of ar­rest as civil­ian po­lice of­fi­cers.

The alert also con­tains a pass­port-sized photo of the re­porter taken from his me­dia cre­den­tials and an im­age, caught by se­cu­rity cam­eras, of the Toy­ota Avensis he was driv­ing, along with the car’s reg­is­tra­tion plates.

Last night, Pro­fes­sor An­thony Glees, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Se­cu­rity and In­tel­li­gence Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­sity of Buck­ing­ham, said there was no doubt Si­ra­ziev and his cam­era­man were com­mit­ting es­pi­onage and he urged Bri­tish spy chiefs to pay more at­ten­tion to the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Rus­sian me­dia in this coun­try.

He said: ‘Rus­sian state jour­nal­ists are sur­ro­gate spies for Pres­i­dent Putin’s regime, this was de­lib­er­ately tar­geted spy­ing at a sen­si­tive lo­ca­tion and is deeply con­cern­ing.

‘Putin is push­ing this es­pi­onage. I am afraid we are back in the Cold War era when Bri­tish mil­i­tary per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies must be ex­tremely aware of the threats in their midst.

‘Through his jour­nal­ists overseas, Putin is look­ing for where our de­fences are weak, they are prob­ing. It’s provoca­tive be­hav­iour, they’re spoil­ing for a fight and see­ing how we will re­act.

‘ The Min­istry of De­fence and our se­cu­rity ser­vices should be play­ing very close at­ten­tion to these in­di­vid­u­als and, as a highly sen­si­tive unit, 77th Brigade is par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble.’

The alert comes at a time of height­ened po­lit­i­cal ten­sions be­tween Bri­tain and the Krem­lin fol­low­ing the poi­son­ing of ex-KGB spy Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter Yu­lia in Sal­is­bury ear­lier this year.

Rus­sia has re­peat­edly de­nied over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence that its agents were be­hind the at­tempted as­sas­si­na­tion. The Rus­sian me­dia has also been at the fore­front of at­tempts to spread mis­in­for­ma­tion about the in­ci­dent. Si­ra­ziev has de­scribed the UK’s case against the Krem­lin as a ‘hoax’.

The Krem­lin- funded Chan­nel One, which boasts 250 mil­lion view­ers in Rus­sia and around the world, is widely con­sid­ered as a branch of the Rus­sian state and Si­ra­ziev has been its Lon­don-based bureau chief since 2008. In 2014 he re­ceived a top Rus­sian TV in­dus­try award for his ‘pro­fes­sion­al­ism and courage when per­form­ing jour­nal­is­tic du­ties’.

Days af­ter the se­cu­rity alert, Chan­nel One broad­cast Sir aziev’s eight-minute re­port on 77th Brigade, which in­cluded claims that its com­man­ders had faked ev­i­dence in a bid to prove that Rus­sia had com­mit­ted war crimes in Syria.

He told view­ers: ‘ In a for­est 100km [60 miles] from Lon­don, a Bri­tish Army unit guards its se­crets like a na­tional trea­sure.

‘There is a warn­ing on the gates: po­lice dogs. Two fences with barbed wire along the perime­ter of the base. This is the 77th Brigade of the Bri­tish Army.

‘ Their weapons are not guns but com­put­ers and fake news in­stead of grenades. This unit at­tacks on­line so­cial net­works and seeds panic, hos­til­ity and ha­tred.

‘This was de­lib­er­ate spy­ing at a sen­si­tive lo­ca­tion’

Ev­ery mes­sage for so­cial net­works is be­ing worked out like a com­bat op­er­a­tion.

‘Staged videos of chem­i­cal weapons at­tacks in Syria could not have been done with­out the Bri­tish mil­i­tary men here.’

Si­ra­ziev’s re­port also in­cluded its own ‘fake news’ as it in­cluded footage lifted from a Bri­tish Army re­cruit­ing video for a Royal Sig­nals unit and pre­sented it to view­ers as im­ages of 77th Brigade con­duct­ing its se­cre­tive busi­ness.

The Mail on Sun­day un­der­stands that his re­ports from Sal­is­bury af­ter the Skri­pals were poi­soned also raised con­cern among UK se­cu­rity chiefs. He de­scribed Ana­toliy Chep­iga and Alexan­der Mishkin, the Rus­sian se­cret agents un­veiled as would-be as­sas­sins, as ‘ or­di­nary cit­i­zens’ go­ing about their busi­ness.

Last night, for­mer Bri­tish Army com­man­der Colonel Richard Kemp backed the MoD’s alert, say­ing: ‘This sort of ac­tiv­ity is spy­ing to all in­tents and pur­poses and it will raise deep con­cerns among per­son­nel in 77th Brigade and their fam­i­lies that the Rus­sians are covertly record­ing footage of the base and of troops go­ing about their every­day busi­ness.

‘Op­er­a­tional se­crecy is an im­per­a­tive for 77th Brigade and, if Rus­sian “jour­nal­ists” work­ing for Krem­lin backed me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions can­not re­spect this re­quire­ment, per­haps they should at the very least be warned about their fu­ture con­duct or more pre­ven­ta­tive ac­tion should be taken.

‘ Si­ra­ziev’s track record is to pack­age the Krem­lin’s line on ma­jor for­eign af­fairs is­sues as in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ism when it is noth­ing of the sort.’

De­fence Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson added: ‘We take the se­cu­rity of our bases and per­son­nel in­cred­i­bly se­ri­ously. If a mem­ber of the pub­lic sees any­one act­ing sus­pi­ciously in or around a mil­i­tary base it should be re­ported to the po­lice as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

Mr Si­ra­ziev last night said that he could not speak to The Mail on Sun­day on the record.

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