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Britain to Expel Russian Attaché in Response to ‘Reckless and Dangerous Activities’ by Moscow

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LONDON — Britain will expel Russia’s defense attaché over spying allegations as part of several measures the government announced Wednesday to target Moscow’s intelligence gathering operations in the U.K.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said 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 attaché, Maxim Elovik, a Russian colonel who 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.”

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry, told The Associated Press that “Russia will respond in kind.”

The U.K. 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, Britain 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, air space 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 Britain since at least 2020. Russian state news agency Tass said he was summoned to the U.K.’s Defense Ministry 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.

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