MI6 has recruited a number of Russians disaffected by the Ukraine war, its chief has revealed, as he appealed for more to defect and work with them.
In a speech in Prague, Sir Richard Moore said many Russians were “silently appalled” to see their armed forces “pulverising” Ukrainian cities.
“They are watching in horror as their soldiers ravage a kindred country.”
He said the door was always open to any Russians who wanted to join the UK spy agency to work to end the bloodshed.
“We will handle their offers of help with the discretion and professionalism for which my service is famed. Their secrets will always be safe with us,” he added.
His appeal was made during his only public appearance this year at the British Embassy in Prague, 55 years after the crushing of the Prague Spring by Russian tanks.
Sir Richard, known as “C”, used the location to draw on the horrors inflicted there when 250,000 troops stormed the Czech Republic to suppress reforms aimed at liberalising the communist country.
He said many Russians were wrestling with the “same dilemmas and the same tugs of conscience” as their predecessors did in 1968.
“They know in their hearts that Putin’s case for attacking a fellow Slavic nation is fraudulent, a miasma of lies and fantasy.
“I invite them to do what others have already done this past 18 months and join hands with us,” he said.
Sir Richard admitted he was baffled by the events of 24 June when heavily-armed Wagner mercenaries advanced to within 200km of Moscow.
He said the deal President Putin was forced to cut with the Wagner leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was a humiliation.
Wagner has fought some of the bloodiest battles since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
But following the mercenaries’ short-lived rebellion, the whereabouts of Prigozhin, a former Putin loyalist, are unknown.
Sir Richard said, however, that as far as they knew, he was still alive.
He added that the solution to the Ukraine war was simple – Russia just needed to withdraw its troops.
Asked how far Mr Putin, who has referred to nuclear weapons, was prepared to go, Sir Richard said: “He really didn’t fight back against Prigozhin, he cut a deal to save his skin, using the good offices of the leader of Belarus.
“Even I can’t see inside Putin’s head, but … the only people who have been talking about escalation and nuclear weapons are Putin and a handful of henchmen around him.
“That is irresponsible, it’s reckless and it is designed to try and weaken our resolve in supporting Ukraine and it will not work.”
On the subject of AI, Sir Richard said it was being used to disrupt the supply of weapons to Russia but insisted machines would not replace human spies.
Human agents were “never just passive collectors of information” and “sometimes they can influence decisions inside a government or terrorist group”, he said.
But he said technology was moving “with startling speed”.
He said his teams were using AI “to augment, but not replace” their own judgement about how people might act in various situations.
“They’re combining their skills with AI and bulk data to identify and disrupt the flow of weapons to Russia for use against Ukraine.”
But Sir Richard said AI may also be used by hostile states “in damaging, reckless and unethical ways”.
Source : BBC