Rus­sian TV crew spies are caught at top se­cret Bri­tish cy­ber war­fare base

THE WARN­ING Sol­diers told to look out for Rus­sians work­ing for Putin’s mouth­piece

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - 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 head­quar­ters.

Troops have been or­dered to ur­gently con­tact po­lice if they spot a re­porter and cam­era­man from Rus­sia’s main state broad­caster loi­ter­ing near mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions.

The dra­matic 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 the 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

‘This was de­lib­er­ate spy­ing at a sen­si­tive lo­ca­tion’

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 pass­port­sized 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 Si­ra­ziev’s eight-minute re­port on 77th Brigade, which in­cluded claims 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.

‘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 77th Brigade con­duct­ing its se­cre­tive busi­ness.

The Mail on Sun­day un­der­stands 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.’

Mr Gavin Williamson added: ‘We take the se­cu­rity of our bases and per­son­nel in­cred­i­bly se­ri­ously.’

Mr Si­ra­ziev last night de­clined to speak on the record.

ALERT: The mis­sive sent to all MoD bases in­clud­ing pic­tures of Si­ra­ziev and the car he was driv­ing, with in­struc­tions to re­port sight­ings

BIRD’S EYE VIEW: Aerial shot of the bar­racks as fea­tured on Si­ra­ziev’s re­port and an Army re­cruit­ment video he falsely claimed showed 77 Brigade at work

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.