Iran has made at least 10 threats this year to kidnap or kill people in the UK considered “enemies of the regime”, the MI5 chief has revealed.
Ken McCallum also warned that the UK must be prepared for more aggression from Russiaclaiming that more than 100 suspected Russian spies have been refused entry to the UK.
He said European allies expelled more than 400 suspected Russian intelligence officers following Russia’s war in Ukraine, “the most significant strategic coup” against Russian spy agencies in recent history.
Presenting an annual threat update, the Director General of the Security Service said on Wednesday:
• China is ‘playing the long game’ to manipulate public opinion in its favor by cultivating people in public life early in their careers, ‘gradually building up bond debt’
• Far-right terrorists try to obtain firearms, including using 3D printers
• MI5 and police have foiled eight late-stage terror plots in the past year, led by both Islamists and right-wing extremists
On Iran, the spy chief has provided fresh details of the regime’s attempts to target individuals in the UK – many of whom are journalists with the London-based Iran International news service – a threat that has already prompted the Foreign Secretary to summon the senior Iranian diplomat in London to the Foreign Office.
“Iran is projecting a threat to the UK directly through its aggressive intelligence services,” Mr McCallum said, speaking from his headquarters at Thames House in London.
“At its peak, this includes ambitions to abduct or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime. We have seen at least 10 such potential threats since January alone.”
With the war in UkraineUnderlining the threat posed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the MI5 chief rejected Russian attempts to accuse the UK of being behind a series of attacks, including mysterious ones explosions against Nord Stream pipelinesas “idiot”.
Mr McCallum said Moscow’s fixation on London reflected “the importance of the UK’s support for Ukraine’s self-defence”.
He said: “The serious point is that the UK must be ready for Russian aggression for years to come. Some of this aggression will be covert, for MI5 to detect and counter. But much , as currently with the energy levers, will be manifest.”
100 British Russian visas rejected on national security grounds
The UK is no stranger to Russian hostilities.
In 2018 the government deported 23 suspected Russian spies to the UK on diplomatic visas as part of its response to the attempted assassination of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and her daughter in Salisbury with a nerve agent.
Moscow has since tried to replenish its intelligence presence, but the MI5 chief said: “We have refused on national security grounds more than 100 applications for Russian diplomatic visas.”
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He said European allies used the same pattern of deporting spies when trying to punish Russia following its full invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
“This year, a concerted campaign has seen massive numbers of Russian officials expelled from countries around the world, including more than 600 from Europe – more than 400 of whom we believe are spies,” McCallum said.
“It dealt the most significant strategic blow against Russian intelligence in recent European history. And with coordinated waves of sanctions, the scale took Putin by surprise.”