D.he British government wants to step up its crackdown on foreign spies and change the law to do so. According to a report in the “Times”, in future all persons who work on behalf of a foreign government in the United Kingdom will have to report this. Violations would then be prosecuted as a criminal offense and expulsion would be possible. The planned amendment to the “Official Secrets Act” is also intended to include new, digital forms of espionage and to be extended to cyberhackers who are active from outside the Kingdom.
According to experts, the project, which is to be announced in May as part of the “Queen’s Speech”, is aimed primarily at spies and cyber agents from Russia and China. The House of Commons Secret Service Committee had submitted a report last year alleging that Russia in particular was meddling in British affairs. In response, the government promised to “resolutely protect our country, our democracy and our values from such hostile state activities”. Together with its allies, the government will work to counter disinformation, combat “influence operations” and fend off cyberattacks.
Again and again attacks on ex-spies
Relations with Russia and China have cooled significantly in recent years. London accuses the governments of both countries of serious human rights violations and violations of international law. Relations with Moscow suffered particularly as a result of repeated attacks by Russian secret service employees on former spies living in the kingdom. China has been criticized for its actions in the former crown colony of Hong Kong, among other things, but also for its dealings with the Uyghurs in the province of Xinjiang. Sanctions were imposed on civil servants in both countries. In return, Beijing announced sanctions against British politicians and other people.
In an interview with the BBC, the Russian ambassador in London said on Sunday that relations had deteriorated and that he had not spoken to British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab for more than a year. Raab had assured the government in Prague “full support” on Sunday after it became known that the Czech authorities were looking for two Russian secret service employees who are also held responsible for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, southern England. The two Russians are said to have been involved in the explosion of an ammunition dump in Vrbětice, in which two men were killed in 2014. The secret service workers were in the country at the time of the incident – and had entered the country with the same passports that they used four years later in Salisbury in their attack on former agent Sergei Skripal.
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