Russia to expel UK defence attache in a tit-for-tat move | News

Moscow declares A. T. Coghill persona non grata in response to London expelling Russian defence attache over espionage allegations.

Russia has declared The United Kingdom’s defence attache persona non grata and gave the diplomat a week to leave the country in response to London expelling the Russian defence attache earlier this month over spying allegations.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it summoned a representative of the British Embassy in Moscow on Thursday to express its “strong protest in connection with the unfriendly and groundless decision” to expel the Russian attache from London.

“We emphasized that we regard this step as a politically motivated action of clearly Russophobic nature, which is causing irreparable damage to bilateral relations,” the statement read.

“The defence attache at the British Embassy in Moscow, A. T. Coghill, has been declared persona non grata. He must leave the territory of the Russian Federation within a week,” the ministry said.

UK Secretary of Defence Grant Shapps called Russia’s expulsion of Coghill “a desperate move”.

“Whilst Russia’s DA in the UK was acting as a spy, Putin’s only issue with ours was that they personified the UK’s unwavering support for Ukraine,” Shapps said.

The UK on May 8 announced several measures to target Moscow’s intelligence gathering operations in the United Kingdom.

Those included expelling Maxim Elovik, a Russian colonel who the British government termed an “undeclared military intelligence officer,” rescinding the diplomatic status of several Russian-owned properties because they are believed to have been used for intelligence purposes, and imposing new restrictions on Russian diplomatic visas and visits.

The government said the measures 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, air space violations and jamming GPS signals to hamper civilian air traffic.

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.

After Russia sent troops into 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.

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