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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Alert issued after Russian TV films near sensitive UK military base

The UK's defence ministry said Timur Siraziev and a cameraman attempted to gain access to the 77th Brigade's barracks last month

Timur Siraziev standing outside the headquarters of the BBC (Instagram)
Timur Siraziev standing outside the headquarters of the BBC (Instagram)

A high-level security warning has been issued by the UK’s defence ministry after a Russian TV crew were caught filming outside the barracks of a secretive military institution in rural England.

Members of the public were urged to remain vigilant and soldiers told to notify the police if journalist Timur Siraziev and cameraman Dmitry Volkov approached them, in the note shared with the Mail on Sunday.

The two men work for the Moscow based Channel One, which is controlled by a mixture of Russian state bodies and private individuals including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich. They were found to have repeatedly passed by and recorded footage near to the base of the 77th Brigade, a unit dedicated to cyber warfare and information operations. It often works closely with UK special forces and the government’s intelligence communications service GCHQ.

"We take the security of our bases and personnel incredibly seriously,” said defence secretary Gavin Williamson.

"If a member of the public sees anyone acting suspiciously in or around a military base it should be reported to the police as a matter of urgency,” he added.

In the alert sent to military officials, it said the two men attempted to gain access to the barracks in Berkshire in a Silver Toyota Estate on the 21 November while making follow up enquiries in relation to “an article in the press.” Mr Siraziev, 39, provided his details and said he was a senior correspondent for Channel One.

“Should this individual or vehicle attend any Army establishment security staff are NOT to allow admission, ensure two members of staff are present during contact or conversation and contact” local police as soon as possible, the note said.

Writing on his Instagram account on Sunday Mr Siraziev accused the Mail on Sunday of lying and insisted he was “a journalist, not a spy.” Many of his pictures show him in different parts of London and Europe. Another appears to accuse the UK government of making false accusations in relation to the poisoning of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal. British officials have said the Kremlin was behind the attempted assassination of Mr Skripal in the city of Salisbury.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, in his reports for Channel One Mr Siraziev said the two men believed to be behind the attack on Mr Skripal were just ordinary citizens.

He also recently said the 77th Brigade were involved in faking evidence in an attempt to prove Russia had committed war crimes in Syria against opponents of President Bashar Al-Assad.

In 2014 Mr Siraziev was given an recognised for his work by the annual Russian television awards show TEFI.

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The events at the 77th Brigade’s barracks are just the latest example of the deteriorating relations between the Kremlin and London over an array of controversies that include the Syrian civil war, the Skripal case and Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.

Last week the head of the UK’s army General Mark Carleton-Smith said Russia now posed a “far greater threat” to the UK’s national security than ISIS, claiming "the Russians seek to exploit vulnerability and weakness wherever they detect it.”