Russia declares UK defence attache in Moscow persona non grata

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images)

In a tit-for-tat move, Russia on Thursday expelled UK defence attache Adrian Coghill from Moscow in response to ‘unfriendly moves by the UK,’ the Russian news agency TASS reported, citing the Russian Foreign Minister’s statement.

This came in response to the UK decision on May 8 to expel Russia’s defence attache, whom the UK accused of being an “undeclared military intelligence officer,” and to remove diplomatic status from the Russian-owned Seacox Heath property in Sussex and the Russian embassy’s trade and defence section in Highgate. The UK also imposed new restrictions on Russian diplomatic visas, including the length of time Russian diplomats can spend in the country.

According to the ministry, it summoned a representative of the UK Embassy on May 16 and issued him a protest in connection with the unfriendly decision that was taken by the government of that country on May 8 with respect to the defence attache at the Russian Embassy in London.

“The British diplomat was informed that, in response to the said decision, the defence attache at the UK Embassy in Moscow, Adrian Coghill, is declared persona non grata. He must leave the territory of the Russian Federation within a week,” the ministry said.
“Our reaction to the UK’s anti-Russian actions, which were announced on May 8, is not limited to this measure. The instigators of the escalation will be informed about further response steps,” the ministry said.

TASS reported that the ministry also said Moscow regards London’s unfriendly move “as a politically motivated action of a clear-cut Russophobic nature, which causes irreparable damage to bilateral relations.” ANI reports.

On May 8, the UK announced several measures to target Moscow’s intelligence-gathering operations in the United Kingdom.
Those included expelling Maxim Elovik, a Russian colonel who the British government termed an “undeclared military intelligence officer,” rescinding the diplomatic status of several Russian-owned properties because they are believed to have been used for intelligence purposes, and imposing new restrictions on Russian diplomatic visas and visits, Al Jazeera reported.
The government said the measures followed criminal cases in London alleging espionage and sabotage by people acting on behalf of Russia.
It also cited allegations that the Russian government planned to sabotage military aid for Ukraine in Germany and Poland and carried out spying in Bulgaria and Italy, along with cyber- and disinformation activities, air space violations and jamming GPS signals to hamper civilian air traffic.
The UK has had an uneasy relationship with Russia for years, accusing its agents of targeted killings and espionage, including cyberattacks aimed at British parliamentarians and leaking and amplifying sensitive information to serve Russian interests, Al Jazeera reported.

After Russia sent troops into Ukraine, the UK has also sanctioned hundreds of wealthy Russians and moved to clamp down on money laundering through London’s property and financial markets.