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To Russia with Love -

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To Russia with Love

AM - Saturday, 30 October , 2004 08:16:00

Reporter: Fran Kelly

HAMISH ROBERTSON: With the end of the Cold War, the era of the James Bond style Russian spy was
thought to be over. But now it seems that the new climate of trust established during the '80s and
'90s was not as entrenched as first thought.

As the British intelligence agencies have shifted focus and resources over the past few years from
counter espionage at home to global terrorism abroad, the Russian spy network in Britain has
expanded under their very noses and is now back to Cold War levels.

As Fran Kelly reports from London, this is causing considerable concern to the intelligence

FRAN KELLY: With perestroika came trust between the East and the West, or so we thought. Now the
revelation that the number of Russian spies operating in Britain is back up to Cold War levels.

ALEX STANDISH: It's certainly seen an enormous expansion of Russian intelligence activity since
President Putin came to power in 2000. The numbers that we're aware of have rocketed from, really,
just a handful of people up to the present levels, at least 32, 33 people that we know of who are
active (insudible) from the Russian embassy and consulate.

FRAN KELLY: Alex Standish is the editor of Jane's Intelligence Digest, which first noted the
increase in Russia's spying activity back in 2002.

Since then, British secret service officials have alerted the House of Commons Intelligence and
Security Committee and the Government to the fact that Russian espionage in Britain is on the
increase - an increase going largely unchecked, as agency resources are directed to the global war
on terror.

In the meantime, British military, financial, and technological secrets are under threat, though
Alex Standish says President Putin's spy network is more interested in the Russians who've fled to
Britain since he came to power.

ALEX STANDISH: One of the key factors in terms of why Britain is being targeted is that since Putin
came to power, there has been a steady flow of very powerful émigrΘs and exiles - including people
like Boris Berezovsky, the former publisher and news media tycoon - who have relocated to the UK
and been given political asylum.

And this makes Britain a potential source of opposition to the Kremlin, and of course Putin is
extremely interested in finding out as much as he can about the activities of these émigrΘ groups.

FRAN KELLY: So how has the spy network been allowed to build up under the noses of MI5?

Oleg Gordievski is a former KGB agent who switched sides and worked for British Intelligence for 11
years. He says the thousands of Russians living and working in British factories, banks, and
corporations provide a dense network of informers for the 32 senior KGB agents working in the UK,
making it hard for the secret service to keep track of what information's being stolen, and who's
trading it.

OLEG GORDIEVSKI: MI-5 knows really well who the officers are, and what their tasks are... for
example, one officer is working in the political sphere looking for diplomats and for the members
of parliament, then they know who are all the security lines trying to penetrate the intelligence
community, but they don't know exactly who are the informers, because they keep their meetings in
London, or maybe outside London, secretly, clandestinely.

FRAN KELLY: Oleg Gordievski was abducted by the KGB and given truth serum when they discovered his
defection in the '80s. He was then nabbed back by MI-5.

Despite that history, he doesn't feel threatened by the rise of the Russian spy network in Britain,
and says old spy techniques like poison umbrella tips and truth serum aren't being used in Britain
these days, though no one's adverse to a little electronic eavesdropping.

OLEG GORDIEVSKI: Yes, I feel entirely safe, because the KGB would never dare to commit
assassination abroad, particularly in major Western countries like Britain or the United States or,
say, France.

FRAN KELLY: What about to the extent of listening devices and that sort of thing?

OLEG GORDIEVSKI: Oh listening devices... everybody's listening to each other. We are speaking of the
KGB are listening, because this telephone number is on their list, so yes, there are intelligence
services, signal intelligence services, intercepting communications is one of the best in the
world, maybe even better than the Americans.

FRAN KELLY: The Russian embassy says it doesn't comment on matters of intelligence, though a
spokesperson says suggestions that the number of Russian spies in Britain are on the increase have
no basis.

This is Fran Kelly in London for AM.

(c) 2006 ABC