Britain’s spy chief on Wednesday urged Russians “appalled” by their country’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine to “join hands with us”, in an unusual public appeal for new agents.
In a speech and interview in the Czech capital Prague, MI6 head Richard Moore used the crushing of the 1968 of the Prague Spring movement by Soviet-led armies as a rallying call for Russian recruits.
“There are many Russians today who are silently appalled by the sight of their armed forces pulverising Ukrainian cities, expelling innocent families from their homes and kidnapping thousands of children,” Moore said.
“As they witness the venality, infighting and sheer callous incompetence of their leaders... many Russians are wrestling with the same dilemmas and the same tugs of conscience as their predecessors did in 1968,” he added.
“I invite them to do what others have already done these past 18 months and join hands with us. Our door is always open.”
Moore said that Britain’s foreign intelligence service would handle any such moves “with discretion and professionalism”, insisting “their secrets will always be safe with us” and that “our loyalty to our agents is lifelong”.
The MI6 chief suggested the spy service was already successfully harnessing Russian agents.
In a question-and-answer session hosted by the Politico website following his speech, Moore insisted protecting such assets is “sacred”.
“If we could not do that, we would go out of business, and I can assure you we are very much in business.”
- ‘Win the race’ -
Moore was also positive about Ukraine being able to regain territory taken by Russia since it launched its invasion in February last year, as Kyiv continues to wage a weeks-old counter-offensive.
Noting Ukraine had liberated more land than Russia had captured over the last year, he said: “there appears now to be little prospect of the Russian forces regaining momentum”.
In his wide-ranging address, delivered at the British Embassy in Prague, Moore touched on the increasing role of artificial intelligence in the world of intelligence-gathering and espionage.
He said MI6 personnel were already using AI to “augment but not replace their own judgement about how people might act in various situations.
“They’re combining their skills with AI and bulk data to identify and disrupt the flow of weapons to Russia for use against Ukraine,” the spy chief added.
Moore said despite the focus on Russia, his service devoted the most resources to countering China, with AI a growing part of that work.
“I expect that we will increasingly be tasked with obtaining intelligence on how hostile states are using AI in damaging reckless and unethical ways,” he noted.
But the intelligence head was adamant the emergent technology had “undoubted potential for good” and that the West would prevail in its utilisation of AI.
“My service together with our allies intends to win the race to master the ethical and safe use of AI,” he said.
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