Former intelligence chief Stella Rimington warns of threat to Britain from Russian spies
Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has accused Russia's security services of being as active in Britain today as they were during the Cold War.
From Telegraph.co.uk by Robert Mendick
Published: 9:00PM BST 03 Jul 2010:
Published: 9:00PM BST 03 Jul 2010:
Dame Stella said she believed Russia still possesses "a very large and well-resourced intelligence community" which remains a threat to British economic and security interests.
"The successor organisations to the KGB are every bit as active as their predecessor," she said, "Are the Russians up to the same sort of thing in Britain? You bet they are, if they think they can get away with it."
She said the threat posed by Russia risked putting a "considerable strain" on Britain's security services which also have to simultaneously deal with the danger of terror attacks by Islamic extremists.
Her comments follow a series of arrests last week in the US which led to the smashing of an alleged Russian spy ring which had been operating undercover for at least a decade.
Those now in jail awaiting trial on a charge of unlawfully working as an agent of the Russian government include Anna Chapman, the daughter of a former KGB officer, who was married to an Englishman and lived in London for about five years.
Yesterday Mrs Chapman's former boyfriend, with whom she lived for a year after her marriage broke down, spoke out for the first time in her defence.
Laurent Tailleur, 31, told The Sunday Telegraph he was certain she was not operating as a spy in the UK during their time together – and was convinced she was not involved in espionage in the US either.
Mr Tailleur, a French playboy, dismissed claims that Mrs Chapman, 28, was meeting other Russian agents while in London or that her expensive lifestyle, which involved nights out at top clubs and restaurants, was being funded by the Russian government. To the contrary, said Mr Tailleur, he was paying for everything.
Speaking from Dubai, he said: "I was very, very shocked to see this in the news... It never came across my mind she was a spy. She was a very kind girl and there was never anything suspicious. It is incredible.
"I paid for everything. When you only have a job as a PA it is normal that I was taking care of all the costs. All these places we went to were quite expensive and she couldn't have paid for it."
The couple lived in London together for a year in 2007 in Mr Tailleur's home off the King's Road in Chelsea but their relationship soured when Mrs Chapman declared one day she needed 'more space'.
A few weeks later, Mrs Chapman returned to Moscow with the germ of a business idea, planted by Mr Tailleur, to start up an internet property finding business.
Even after they parted the pair remained in touch and only recently, Mrs Chapman called her former lover to suggest a reunion in New York.
"The last time I spoke to her she told me the US was really great and she couldn't believe how much fun it was and I should come and visit. She said very positive things about the US. This is a really strange contradiction with what is written [about her being a spy]."
He said he feared for her safety in a US jail where she is currently languishing in isolation, allowed one-hour's exercise a day.
"She will not cope," he said, "She is a really non-aggressive girl. I really hope they [prison authorities] do their best to keep her out of harm. Despite all you can read that she is a super-trained spy, she was just a really nice, quiet girl."
Ms Chapman's lawyer Robert Baum contacted The Sunday Telegraph to protest his client's innocence. He said: "I believe that the evidence against Mrs Chapman is very thin."
He said that while some of those arrested had lived in the US for many years under assumed identities, Mrs Chapman had lived in the open.
He added: " Her circumstances are very different from the others arrested."