London: Former head of MI5, Stella Rimington, believes that 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,” The Telegraph quoted Rimington, as saying.
“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 added.
She further said that the threat posed by Russia risked putting a “considerable strain” on Britain’s security services.
Rimington’s comments come after a series of arrests last week in the US, which led to the smashing of an alleged Russian spy ring that had been operating undercover for at least a decade.
In the meantime, a Russian analyst, Alexander Nekrassov, has said that there could be ‘a few hundred’ Russian intelligence operatives in the UK.
“There are probably hardened spies, professionals and that would be quite a small number, who would be looking for recruitment, that’s the ultimate goal of any intelligence service,” Sky News quoted Nekrassov, as saying.
“The others would simply be supplying business information, information about people. They would basically be befriending people for the sake of having connections. So yes, it is quite conceivable that there is a wide network of people helping Russian intelligence in Britain,” he added.
Meanwhile, Edward Lucas, an expert and author on post cold war spying techniques, said the spies might be analysing issues such as the British foreign policy.
“I think what really interests them would be things like, what’s the foreign policy of this government going to be under Clegg and Cameron?” Lucas asked.
“Are we going to see the same quite tough attitude towards Russia, support for the East European countries that we saw under Tony Blair? Is it going to go back to being more realpolitik, less about allies, more about trade? Those are the kind of questions they would like answers to,” he added.
It comes as British intelligence officials continue to probe Russian ‘under cover’ agent in US, Anna Chapman.
The 28-year-old married Briton Alex Chapman in 2002 and moved to South Kensington in West London in 2004, where she worked for Barclays and a private jet company.
She moved to the US in February.
Alex has said that he had no idea his former wife was a spy, but that her behaviour had become strange and distant before they separated a few years ago.
The intelligence officials are also investigating a company, Southern Union, set up by Anna and Alex in 2002.
According to reports, authorities are looking at the accounts of the company, suspecting that it may have been used to channel funds for spying purposes.
It is also believed that Anna had befriended a number of prominent British businessmen and politicians during her time in the UK.