"I Was Approached To Become A Russian Spy", Says Local MP

More Hands On Approach needed in Britain's Dealings With Russia

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Local MP Greg Hands has spoken of his concerns about Russia, after he was approached by an intelligence officer in a Hammersmith pub.

According to the MP, he first met the official for the Russian Embassy at the Conservative donor club Fastrack Christmas party in December 2004.

Mr Hands said,"At the event, an official from the Embassy sidled up to me and my wife, introduced himself as being Alexei (whose name I have changed) from the embassy's political section, and how he lived in Fulham.

"This was in the constituency I had been selected to fight at the coming General Election, which was widely expected in the following spring."

The two arranged to meet in the Seven Stars pub in North End Road. "Alexei looked up from his beer, and asked me if I could get him a document from the House of Commons library, a statement made by the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on UK relations with Iran." said Mr Hands "It was then that it dawned on me that I was being approached by an intelligence officer to spy for Russia."

Mr Hands of course refused, but said ever since the incident he has become increasingly concerned about the behaviour of Russia.

He said, "For a man like Alexei to have quite openly - albeit rather amateurishly - gone about trying to recruit a soon-to-be MP in the public bar of a London pub shows a brazenness that is in some ways characteristically Russian but in other ways symptomatic of a country where the grip and power of the intelligence services is becoming very unhealthy.

"The whole affair smacks of an intelligence apparatus dangerously out of control of itself, but increasingly in control of Russia.

"Compared to the Litvinenko assassination, my meeting with "Alexei" was almost trivial, but it is part of the same syndrome. Relations with Russia can and must improve, but serious attention will be needed by President Putin or more likely his successor next year to get the country back on track. Let us hope they succeed."

June 14, 2007