Africa & World

UK Defence Ministry’s classified documents found at bus stop

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  • The Ministry of Defence said an employee had reported the loss of the documents last week. It did not provide details about the incident or confirm the documents were found at a bus stop.

SENSITIVE defence documents containing details about the British military have been found at a bus stop in England, the BBC has reported.

The papers included plans for a possible UK military presence in Afghanistan, as well as discussion about the potential Russian reaction to the British warship HMS Defender’s travel through waters off the Crimean coast last week, the BBC said.

The broadcaster said a member of the public who wanted to remain unnamed contacted it when they found the pile of documents — about 50 pages in all — in a soggy heap on Tuesday behind a bus stop in Kent, south-east of London.

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova mocked the British government on social media channel Telegram, saying: “London has used a number of lies to cover up the latest provocation. 007 [James Bond] is no longer the same.”

“And now a riddle-like question for the British parliament, why do we need ‘Russian hackers’ if there are British bus stops?”

The Ministry of Defence said an employee had reported the loss of the documents last week. It did not provide details about the incident or confirm the documents were found at a bus stop.

“The Ministry of Defence was informed last week of an incident in which sensitive defence papers were recovered by a member of the public,” it said in a statement. “The department takes the security of information extremely seriously and an investigation has been launched.”

“The department takes the security of information extremely seriously and an investigation has been launched,” it said in a statement. “It would be inappropriate to comment further.”

John Healey, the defence spokesman for the opposition Labour party, said the incident was both embarrassing and worrying.

“Ministers must be able to confirm to the public that national security has not been undermined, that no military or security operations have been affected and that the appropriate procedures are in place to ensure nothing like this happens again,” he said.

The HMS Defender upset Russia’s military on Wednesday when it sailed south of the Crimean Peninsula in a Black Sea area that Moscow claims as its territorial waters. Many nations, including the UK, do not accept Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and consider that area to be Ukrainian waters.

Russia said one of its warships fired warning shots in response to the destroyer’s intrusion, but Britain denied that account and said the warship was not in Russian waters. The UK’s Ministry of Defence said the ship was “conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law”.

Russia later summoned the British ambassador in Moscow for a formal diplomatic scolding over what it described as a provocation.

The documents showed officials conducted high-level discussions before Wednesday’s clash about how Russia may react if HMS Defender sailed close to Crimea, the BBC said.

The BBC said the documents suggested the ship’s mission was conducted in the expectation that Russia might respond aggressively. – AP, Reuters

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