Reliable, Credible, I Can Vouch for Steele …
Sir Andrew Wood says he rates judgment of report author Christopher Steele, who ‘would not make things up’ …
Cool, unruffled and polite, Sir Andrew Wood is every inch the Foreign Office mandarin, and not a diplomat ordinarily associated with the kind of cold war-style alleged sex scandal currently embroiling the president-elect, Donald Trump.
Yet to his evident discomfort, Wood has found himself thrust front and centre of a story that has generated global interest and sent shudders around Washington and Whitehall on the eve of an inauguration that will be stained by the furore.
Wood, 77, knew and respected Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 officer who wrote the 35-page dossier that contained lurid allegations about Trump. Wood also spoke to the Republican senator John McCain about the claims.
The two men had met at an “international security forum” in Canada last November – Wood addressed delegates about Ukraine, McCain about Syria. But it was their private discussion about Russia that set in train this week’s remarkable events.
Wood shared with the veteran senator what he knew about the dossier and warned that if any of its central claims were true, Trump could be blackmailed by Russia. McCain was worried enough to seek out a copy of the documents for himself – which he then passed to the FBI.
“I think it has to be disproved, rather than anything else,” he said.
Wood, the UK ambassador to Moscow between 1995 and 2000, explained the sequence of events in various media interviews on Friday – using the kind of moderated language that no doubt helped persuade McCain, and then the heads of the US intelligence agencies, that both President Obama and the brash incumbent, needed to know what was being circulated.
At a point when the British government was hoping the story would go away …
PM Theresa May at press conference during her visit to 5-Eyes fellow member New Zealand:
Ms May spoke for the first time about the controversy at a press conference following talks with her New Zealand counterpart in Downing Street.
She was asked whether the UK Government had any involvement in the creation of the dossier, a summary of which was handed to the FBI and to President Obama.
“It’s a long-standing position that we don’t comment on such matters, but I think from everything that you will have seen it is absolutely clear that the individual who produced this dossier has not worked for the UK Government for years,” the Prime Minister replied.
Russian security officials announced they have arrested a Russian citizen suspected of spying for Britain and said the Foreign Ministry will expel several British diplomats believed to be using the embassy in Moscow as a cover for espionage activities. In a brief written statement, the Federal Security Service said an ‘agent of the English SIS intelligence service’ was ‘caught red- handed’ while communicating with a contact. It did not specify when or where the suspected agent was detained. The statement said the alleged spy had ‘espionage equipment’ on his person at the time of the arrest, and that he confessed to having a ‘criminal relationship’ with British intelligence. The statement gave a detailed account of his recruitment by and cooperation with British spy bodies.
Russian news agencies cited unnamed sources in security organs as saying the suspected spy was arrested last month after a few years working with British intelligence. They described him as a young man who worked in a government body and had access to restricted political and defense-related information, and that his motivation was purely financial. In a move that Russian security officials indicated was based on information from the suspect, the state-run Itar-Tass news agency said the Foreign Ministry lodged a ‘decisive protest’ with the British ambassador, Sir Andrew Wood, over the use of the British Embassy as a cover for broad-based espionage. Moscow will expel several ‘English staff spies, who under the cover of diplomatic positions at the embassy of Great Britain in the Russian Federation maintained links with the exposed agent,’ Federal Security Service spokesman Alexander Zdanovich told the Interfax news agency.
Zdanovich said the Foreign Ministry informed Wood that ‘for actions incompatible with diplomatic status, a number of English spies have been declared persona non grata and are being expelled from Russia.’ Officials at the British Embassy in Moscow declined to comment on the situation, but a Foreign Office spokesman in London delivered a blanket denial, saying: ‘The allegations we’ve seen in the media are completely unjustified.’ Shortly after British Prime Minister John Major met with his foreign secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Office issued an additional statement warning that it will make an ‘approriate response’ if Russia carries out its threat to expel diplomats.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov told Interfax he had discussed the arrest of the suspected spy and the expulsion of British embassy employees with Wood, but declined to say how many Britons would be required to leave. The Foreign Ministry broke with its common practice by failing to issue an official statement on the matter, possibly indicating plans to declare suspected intelligence agents persona non grata and expel them had not been fully developed.
The statement from the Russian Federal Security Service, the domestic offshoot of the former Soviet KGB, did not indicate how the accused spy would be punished. Espionage is punishable by imprisonment or death in Russia. The situation appeared likely to develop into the most serious spy scandal involving Moscow and London since 1989, when Britain expelled 11 alleged Soviet spies and the Kremlin retaliated by ousting 11 British diplomats and journalists.
Last January a British parliamentary committee found the MI6, the branch of the SIS responsible for foreign intelligence, had reduced its activity in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Silly ambassador Sir Wood, didn’t mention him overseeing an espionage nest in his embassy in Moscow … probably never heard or met Steele’s Orbis partner Pablo Miller (BOE) either, great MI6 spy and decorated by the Queen.
,,Spy scandal strains relations between Russia and Britain‟ proclaimed the headlines.
1The British prime minister and Russian president both sought to downplay accusations from the Russian security services that the United Kingdom had been engaged in espionage in Moscow, using agents who were ostensibly working as diplomats in the British embassy.
At the highest political level both sides were keen to talk up the continuing good relations between the two countries, building on recent successful summits between president and prime minister, and more formal state visits just a couple of years earlier between the Queen and the president. Such good relations, it was emphasised, stemmed from longer lasting modes of cooperation based on trade links, investments, and Russia‟s relations with such bodies as the EU, NATO, the UN, and the OSCE.
The headline noted above is from 1996. A tit-for-tat agreed withdrawal of four British diplomats from Moscow and four Russian diplomats from London served as a reminder that despite the end of the Cold War and the development of warm relations between Russia and the UK, the collection of covert information still went on between friendly states. This arose in May 1996, just a month after Prime Minister John Major had visited President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow, and less than two years since Queen Elizabeth II had made her historic state visit to Russia in October 1994.
The situation the headline describes, however, could apply to either 1996 or 2006. In January 2006 the Russian state security service, the FSB, named four British diplomats in the Moscow Embassy as spies, producing film footage of what it said were these British spies retrieving data from a fake rock packed with computer equipment and located in a Moscow park. Since the film footage showed the ,,rock‟ being taken away by the individual concerned, the FSB had to explain how they were able to display a ,,British spy rock‟ to the media. The answer came from the FSB that their agents had spent a month scouring Moscow for similar rocks before eventually discovering one and revealing it along with the earlier film footage.
Just as in 1996, a meeting between the countries‟ leaders – by now Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Vladimir Putin– had been held just months earlier, in June 2005, in Moscow and had been talked up positively by both sides. Two years earlier, in June 2003, Putin had become the first Russian leader in 125 years to be granted a full state visit to London.
More below the fold …
Links added to article are mine – Oui]
Sir Andrew Wood Defends His Role | Aource: Daily Mail | A summary via Eurobeam
Sir Andrew Wood’s five years as British Ambassador to Russia coincided with the arrival of Vladimir Putin first as FSB security service chief then premier, and finally acting president.
He was in charge of the UK embassy across the Moscow River from the Kremlin during some of the most momentous and fraught times in post-Soviet Russia.
He saw the decline of the ailing vodka-soaked rule of Boris Yeltsin and the rise of ex-spy Putin, and was among the first to publicly question his second bloody war in Chechnya, an early sign of the new leader’s ruthlessness.
Sir Andrew also had to deal with the gruesome beheading of three Britons and a New Zealander in Chechnya, accused of being spies, and forced to make a confession, saying on camera: ‘We have been recruited by the English intelligence service.’
The ambassador protested: ‘It’s totally absurd, everyone knows, especially in Russia, how these confessions can be obtained. Why would our special services be in Chechnya? It’s not rational.’
Darren Hickey, Peter Kennedy and Rudi Petschi and Stan Shaw were installing a satellite communications system for British company Granger Telecom in Chechnya when they fell victim to the spate of kidnappings.
Hostage Abdurakhman Adukhov said he asked Barayev why he killed the engineers. He was told that Barayev hoped to receive more money if he killed them than if he freed them.
Barayev was negotiating a ransom with the men’s employers, BT and Surrey-based telecoms company Granger Telecom.
He told Adukhov that by killing them, he stood to receive “not ten but 30 million dollars.” The money would be paid by “Arab friends.”
Barayev is reported to have said: “We’re waging holy war. And we’re involved in big politics. We ourselves will answer for everything before Allah.”
Bin Laden paid vast sums to Islamic extremists in Chechnya to help them spread fundamentalism through the region, according to intelligence sources.
Earlier he worked with controversial tycoon Boris Berezovsky– who would in 2013 die in Britain in unexplained circumstances – to free aid workers Camilla Carr and Jon James, taken hostage by bandits in Chechnya, denying claims that a ransom was paid to terrorists to secure their freedom.
He was aware of the risk of sexual entrapment in Moscow.
In 1997 when then Home Secretary Michael (Lord) Howard – later to be Tory Party leader – visited Moscow, the ambassador expressed alarm at his sudden decision to go out in the evening unchaperoned by diplomats in a Lada car to visit a newly-opened Irish pub in the company of a British journalist.
Sir Andrew was also caught in a row over an expensive £11 million refurbishment of the then British embassy , converting it into solely the palatial residence for the ambassador, with Chancellor Gordon Brown complaining about the lavish lifestyle of diplomats.
Sir Andrew’s led trade missions to distant regions of the country – including parts of Siberia – but he also saw the 1998 rouble crash when cowboy capitalist Russia, having rejected communism, witnessing millions lose their life’s savings amid rampant inflation.
During Blair’s walkabout in Moscow, the bald mayor Yuri Luzhkov sought to muscle in on event to the evidence annoyance of press secretary Alastair Campbell who barked at Sir Andrew: ‘Break a line and cut him off. We’re off.’
Despite this uninspiring start with the new premier, Sir Andrew later worked for Blair as an advisor on Russian investment . He also witnessed the 1996 election when Reds-to-Riches tycoons intervened to prop up a visible sick Yeltsin by bankrolling his campaign in return for ownership of Russia’s most prized industrial assets.
This stopped the Communists retaking power but it was the start of the oligarch era in Russia. After retiring from the diplomat service, Sir Andrew developed business interests linked to Russia. He became caught in controversy over Labour premier Blair’s role in helping rescue a controversial £4.2 million BP deal in Russia.
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