British ex-embassy guard admits spying for Russia in Germany

A British security guard at the UK's embassy in Germany has pleaded guilty to violating the Official Secrets Act after he passed information to Russia, officials said Friday.

British Embassy in Berlin
The Union Jack flies at half mast outside the British Embassy in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

David Ballantyne Smith, 58, was said in court to be motivated by an intense hatred for his homeland.

Smith, who worked at the Berlin embassy for eight years, was also said to have been angered at its flying the Rainbow flag in support of gay people.

He admitted to eight charges last week, but that could not be reported at the time as he was denying a ninth count.

Prosecutors have now said they will not press for a trial on the ninth charge, removing the reporting restrictions.

READ ALSO: Germany considers extradition of Briton who ‘spied for Russia’

Smith lived beyond his means, but €800 in cash was found at his home in Potsdam when he was arrested by German police in August last year, the Old Bailey court heard.

Searches of his electronic devices found the draft of a letter dated May 2020 in which he offered his services to a Russian diplomat.

After that letter, he was in contact with Sergey Chukhurov, the Russian military attache in Berlin, handing over information on various British civil servants.

He collected intelligence on the operation of the embassy and delivered some material that was officially marked “Secret”.

Smith faces a maximum jail term of 14 years for spying. He will be sentenced at a later date.

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Germany arrests Ukrainian and Russian on spying charges

German prosecutors said Friday they had arrested three men -- a Russian, a Ukrainian and an Armenian -- on suspicion of spying for a foreign intelligence service.

Germany arrests Ukrainian and Russian on spying charges

They were arrested in the western city of Frankfurt on Wednesday after allegedly trying “to gather information about a Ukrainian national”, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

The men were only identified as Robert A. from Ukraine, Vardges I. from Armenia and Russian citizen Arman Sm.

“The three suspects were acting on behalf of a foreign intelligence service in Germany,” the statement said.

On June 19 the trio “scouted a cafe in Frankfurt am Main where the target person was thought to be”, it added.

Prosecutors did not specify which foreign secret service the men were allegedly working for, and declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.

According to Germany’s Der Spiegel weekly, the suspects were acting on behalf of Russia.

The Ukrainian target alerted the police himself, Spiegel added, citing security sources. He reportedly became suspicious after the trio made contact with him and suggested meeting at the cafe.

READ ALSO: German ex-soldier found guilty of spying for Russia

Germany has uncovered numerous espionage cases on its soil since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

A former German intelligence officer is currently on trial in Berlin, accused of handing information to Moscow that showed Germany had access to details of Russian mercenary operations in Ukraine. He denies the charges.

Last month, a German former soldier was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for sharing secret military information with Russia in the wake of the outbreak of war in Ukraine.

Russian authorities for their part have levelled treason charges against dozens of people accused of aiding Ukraine and the West since the invasion.