Russians horrified by the war in Ukraine should spy for the UK and help “bring the bloodshed to an end”, says the head of MI6.
Sir Richard Moore said that the spy agency is “always open” to recruiting Russian defectors and vowed to protect them from the Kremlin.
He said some have already offered to help and said “their secrets will always be safe with us”.
The spy chief said: “There are many Russians today who are silently appalled.
“They know in their hearts that Putin’s case for attacking a fellow Slavic nation is fraudulent, a miasma of lies and fantasy.”
He said Vladimir Putin is “clearly under pressure”, as demonstrated by the recent revolt by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner mercenaries.
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MI6 believe Prigozhin is still alive and Mr Moore said Putin cut a deal with the mercenary boss to save his own life.
The head of MI6 also revealed that Iran’s sale of kamikaze drones to Russia “has provoked internal quarrels at the highest level of the regime in Tehran”.
But the spy chief warned that MI6 spends more time focusing on China given its “increasing global significance”.
“As the Foreign Secretary said in April, Britain will robustly defend our national security and values, but at the same time it’s absolutely necessary to engage with China, for the simple reason that not a single international problem of any importance can be addressed if we do not.
“We have watched China steadily expand its influence in contested spaces by offering countries ambitious deals that look too good to be true – and frequently turn out to be exactly that.
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“Authoritarian regimes try to hide their intentions in contested spaces within a blizzard of propaganda and disinformation.
“They are increasingly doing this with the aid of Artificial Intelligence, which is opening up vast new terrains for fake news, blurring the distinction between fantasy and reality.
“This brings me back to the core business of my service: in a world ever more awash with disinformation and fakery, the premium on discovering the truth with accurate verified reporting from human agents and technical operations will be even greater.
“AI is going to make information infinitely more accessible and some have asked whether it will put intelligence services like mine out of business? In fact, the opposite is likely to be true.”
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Sir Richard warned China is not “hugely troubled by questions of personal privacy or individual data security.”
He added: “China benefits from sheer scale: AI, in its current form, requires colossal volumes of data; the more data you have, the more rapidly you can teach machine-learning tools. China has added to its immense data-sets at home by hoovering up others abroad.”
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