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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Russia hits back over threat to underseas cables

Embassy in London says claims by the UK’s head of armed forces about the threat posed by the Russian navy are ‘sensationalist’

Theresa May, the British premier, has warned about Russian meddling and espionage.   / AFP PHOTO / CHRISTIAN HARTMANN
Theresa May, the British premier, has warned about Russian meddling and espionage. / AFP PHOTO / CHRISTIAN HARTMANN

Claims by the head of the UK’s armed forces that undersea communications cables are at growing risk of attack from Moscow are sensationalist and fan the flames of anti-Russian sentiment, the country’s embassy in London said on Saturday.

The British military was speculating about “mind-boggling” military scenarios to ensure its budget, threatened by government cuts, was maintained, according to a statement on the Russian embassy’s website.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said on Thursday that UK and NATO were facing an increased threat from the Russian navy, with any attack on the cables having a major impact on the internet and international trade.

Some 97 per cent of global communications are transmitted via cables beneath the sea including $10 trillion of financial transfers every day, according to a report by a UK thinktank, the Policy Exchange, published earlier this month.

Most of the cables are owned by private companies and governments have neglected their importance, the report suggested.

It said there was currently no alternative to using the cables making Britain vulnerable to a terrorist attack as the lines were highly concentrated at a small number of landing sites.

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Sir Stuart’s warnings about the potential for a modernised Russian naval fleet to “catastrophically fracture” international trade by cutting the cables came a month after Theresa May, the UK’s premier, accused Russia of seeking to sow discord in the West with a campaign of cyber espionage and disruption.

In its response on Saturday, the Russian embassy said “Such sensationalist statements can cause but regret, as they are fanning the flames for the unwholesome sentiment” created by Mrs May’s speech.

“Instead of discussing European security, an important issue for all the European nations including UK, London keeps speculating on numerous mind-boggling scenarios of a hypothetical conflict.

“The reasons look obvious – but even if the UK military needs money so badly, why intimidate people this much?”