Plot to Sabotage Concorde; Russian Spies Flooded Britain to Cause Industrial Chaos and Wreck Our Supersonic Jet Project

Daily Mail (London), January 23, 1998 | Go to article overview

Plot to Sabotage Concorde; Russian Spies Flooded Britain to Cause Industrial Chaos and Wreck Our Supersonic Jet Project


Byline: PAUL EASTHAM

SECRET Cabinet papers released yesterday revealed the astonishing scale of Britain's intelligence battle with the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

In an unprecedented move historians were given unfettered access to 60,000 documents charting Britain's relations with Moscow from 1968 to 1975.

The papers are in two volumes published by the Foreign Office including for the first time intelligence reports. They were not due for release to the Public Records Office under the 30-year rule until well into the new Millennium.

But Foreign Secretary Robin Cook put them into the public domain yesterday under the banner of Tony Blair's commitment to open government, although the project was first authorised by former Premier John Major.

Starting work in 1994, Foreign Office historians selected 216 of the most fascinating and explosive diplomatic dispatches, Cabinet letters, ministerial minutes and spy reports from MI5 and MI6 agents to string together an extraordinary narrative.

The papers reveal attempts at KGB sexual entrapment, near punch-ups in diplomatic peace talks and a Britain constantly at odds behind the scenes with our allies the Americans on how to end the Cold War.

The revelations show that a huge network of Soviet agents, possibly 200 strong, formed a network dedicated to plotting trade union mayhem, industrial sabotage and theft of vital commercial and military secrets.

Targets included stealing the blueprints of the Anglo-French Concorde project. They show Harold Wilson was criticised secretly by his own Ministers for his supine attitude to the Kremlin.

The supposedly weak Alec Douglas-Home emerges as a figure far more respected by Moscow after he threw out 105 Russian spies at a stroke.

The mass expulsion was expected to cause major diplomatic and trade repercussions.

But the British ambassador to Moscow in the early 1970s, Sir John Clay, said yesterday that Britain did not lose a single major business deal as a result of the expulsions and within six months was 'back in business' after a suprising lack of reprisals.

THE Russians had beaten Concorde into the air with their own supersonic jet.

But the airliner, which was quickly christened Concordski, was a vastly inferior machine and they knew it.

As the Anglo-French project neared completion Russian spies made great efforts to get every possible detail about Concorde, her engines and performances during trials.

Soviet air experts trained KGB agents on the best way to delay the testing and development of Concorde. The KGB also intended to steal the plans for Britain's world-beating nuclear technology, computer electronics and the Olympus 359 aero engine.

Industrial mayhem was to be spread throughout the country by bribing middle-ranking trade unionist to cause unrest.

But the extensive subversion plan was revealed to MI5 by Oleg Lyalin a KGB officer in the Soviet trade mission in Highgate, North London. He defected after being arrested for drunken driving.

Dubbed Comrade X to keep his name secret while he underwent debriefing, he said the KGB was planning large scale sabotage throughout Britain. There was also said to be evidence of Soviet penetration of the Labour Party.

Although some of his claims were undoubtedly exaggerated, MI5 had been warning the Foreign Office for years about the growing numbers of Soviet intelligence agents active in Britain who were posing as commercial attaches, businessmen and even chauffeurs.

The Russians had formed one of the most extensive espionage and sabotage networks ever set up in the West.

Lyalin's disclosures were to wreck the entire Russian spy ring throughout western Europe and severely compromised Soviet espionage in the United States.

His revelations in the summer of 1971 set alarm bells ringing at the Cabinet. …

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Plot to Sabotage Concorde; Russian Spies Flooded Britain to Cause Industrial Chaos and Wreck Our Supersonic Jet Project
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