An MoD internal investigation has found no evidence that the leaking of papers on the HMS Defender incident was the result of espionage, Defence Minister Ben Wallace has announced.
“The investigation has found no evidence of espionage; and has concluded that there has been no compromise of the papers by our adversaries,” Wallace indicated in a written statement to lawmakers on Monday.
Wallace said the ministry had determined that the papers were “lost” by an unnamed individual, and that this individual has had their security clearance suspended pending a full review.
“The investigation has independently confirmed the circumstances of the loss, including the management of the papers within the Department, the location at which the papers were lost and the manner in which that occurred. These are consistent with the events self-reported by the individual,” Wallace specified.
Wallace said he was confident that the MoD had “recovered all the SECRET papers,” and said his department would not be making any further commentary “on the nature of the loss or on the identity of the individual,” citing “security reasons.”
On 23 June, the HMS Defender, a Daring-class Royal Navy destroyer, illegally entered Russian waters off Crimea and proceeded to sail through, prompting Russian warships and aircraft surround the ship and fire warning shots in its vicinity to force it to leave. Moscow blasted the incident as a deliberate provocation, but London initially offered a series of convoluted and contradictory explanations on what happened, with the MoD denying that Russia fired any warning shots, while a BBC journalist onboard the ship confirmed that they took place, at the same time that the British Embassy in Moscow maintained that the vessel was just carrying out “innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters.”
On 27 June, the BBC reported that a member of the public had discovered classified MoD papers at a bus stop in Kent, and that the papers, dated 21 June, contained an analysis of the potential consequences of purposely sailing a warship through Russian waters off Crimea. The MoD initially refused to confirm that the documents were authentic, but later admitted that the papers were lost and said it was “very sorry” that this happened.
Speaking to Sputnik about the leaked papers, Nick Griffin, former chair of the British National Party and former member of the European Parliament for Britain, suggested that the discovery of the documents had only two possible explanations: “Either it’s a cover for a deliberate leak by an official – presumably one who disagrees with the official policy of reckless provocation of Russia – or it is symbolic of the shambolic incompetence that is endemic in modern Britain.”
In a separate report late last month, informed sources told The Telegraph that the HMS Defender’s sail was a preplanned operation concocted by Defence Secretary Wallace, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab reportedly expressing opposition to the idea but Prime Minister Johnson squashing debate and approving the sail two days before the incident took place.