In an interview with The Sunday Times, the chief of the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6, Richard Moore claimed that Russia's status declined and faces numerous challenges right now.
"Russia is an objectively declining power economically and demographically. It is an extremely challenged place", Moore said.
Such a denigrating evaluation of Russia's state of affairs did not stop the master spy from putting the country at the top of the list of his concerns. He justified the placement by the need to deal with Moscow's alleged "reckless behaviour". The MI6 chief namely brought up recent unsubstantiated accusations by the Czech government about Russia's alleged involvement in a 2014 explosion at the Vrbetice ammunitions warehouse, as an example.
It's worth noting though that Czech President Milos Zeman stated on 25 April that an accident still can't be ruled out as a possible cause and that over the last six years counter intelligence never reported or even suspected Moscow's involvement in the blast. The Kremlin, in turn, strongly denied orchestrating the explosion.
Another point of concern for Moore is Russia's redeployment of troops closer to the border with Ukraine, where a conflict in the east threatens to re-emerge with new force. Moscow has repeatedly rejected concerns by western governments, claiming the troops could be used to attack Ukraine, and stressing that control over troop deployments is Russia's sovereign right.
Despite this, the UK and the US still fear the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. They warned the Kremlin of the potential consequences, if these fears come to life, the MI6 boss told The Sunday Times.
"The Russians are in absolutely no doubt of where the UK stands on this issue. And they are in absolutely no doubt of where the Biden administration stands on this issue, because channels are open […] I have not picked up the phone but I have ways of communicating what I need to do. We sit next to them in the UN Security Council as permanent members and we are able to communicate with them", Moore said.
The redeployment of Russian troops comes as exchanges of fire continue to happen in the demilitarised zone in the Ukrainian region of Donbass in violation of a ceasefire. Moscow says the Ukrainian military is responsible for the majority of provocations there and warned other countries that a new round of fighting might erupt because of it. The Kremlin insists that Ukraine is responsible for the lack of progress in the peaceful resolution of the conflict because Kiev has so far failed to live up to its commitments under the Minsk accords, negotiated with help from Russia, France, and Germany.