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The Telegraph: MI5 to shifts focus to counter-espionage amid rising Russia, China threats

by Olena Goncharova June 2, 2024 5:49 AM  (Updated: ) 2 min read
The Russian flag as seen through a bus stop post flies next to the Russian Embassy in the U.S. in Washington, D.C., on April 15, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
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The United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency Mi5 has been ordered to prioritize targeting spies over terrorists due to a significant recruitment drive by Russia, China, and Iran.

The ongoing war in Ukraine, the increasing presence of Chinese agents in the U.K., and Iran's use of organized criminals have considerably altered the security service's primary targets, The Telegraph reports.

Although domestic and international terrorism remains a priority, MI5 is now allocating more resources to counter-espionage operations against Russia, China, and Iran, according to government sources. Ministers have directed MI5 to "refocus much of their efforts on the espionage threat, especially from China, Russia, and more recently Iran," according to a senior government official.

The source emphasized that "counter-terrorism has not been deprioritized, but this has been prioritized alongside it," noting that "their workload has definitely shifted in that direction."

The source highlighted that following the 2018 Novichok attack in Salisbury, Russia "lost a significant number of their intelligence officers overnight" and has been attempting to recruit new assets to fill these gaps. In response to the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, Britain expelled 23 Russian spies as part of its "full and robust response."

The source further explained that U.K.'s support for Ukraine in the war against Russia has led to an increase in espionage activities. "The more you step out, the more you find yourself in their crosshairs," they said.

In May, it was revealed that Russia is recruiting violent right-wing extremists to carry out sabotage attacks in Europe and the U.K., raising concerns among intelligence chiefs.

The Telegraph also notes that the number of Chinese agents involved in intelligence gathering in the U.K. is now considered "unquantifiable."

Intelligence sources indicated that Chinese agents are active in various sectors, including academia, where both students and lecturers are involved, as well as in business and the arts. In some instances, individuals gathering information may be unaware that they are being used for intelligence purposes by the Chinese state.

G7, EU want to target banks helping Russia evade sanctions, Bloomberg reports
In particular, the allies are considering steps against banks using SPFS, Russia’s alternative to the SWIFT messaging system, to circumvent trade restrictions, the outlet said.

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