The head of MI6 delivered a harsh message to Vladimir Putin yesterday, telling him to withdraw from Ukraine or risk being overthrown.
Sir Richard Moore said the only way the Russian leader could ensure his “professional stability” and save his own skin from the “chaos that was playing out in the Russian body politic” was to withdraw Russian troops.
In a rare public speech, he made an extraordinary call for the Russians to spy for MI6, also known as the Secret Intelligence Service. He compared the fate of his country to Shakespeare’s doomed Hamlet.
“Putin cannot have an experience where one of his closest protégés turns on his defense minister and his chief of general staff, you have a massive explosion in the Kremlin that drives troops, heavily armed troops, advancing 77 miles (125 km) from Moscow.
‘He has to realize, I’m sure, that something is profoundly wrong with the state of Denmark, to quote Hamlet. He was pretty humiliating: he had to go and make a deal to save his own skin.
Sir Richard Moore (left) said the only way the Russian leader could ensure his “professional stability” and save his own skin from “recurring chaos in the Russian body politic” was to withdraw Russian troops.
The head of MI6 delivered a tough message to Vladimir Putin (pictured) yesterday, telling him to withdraw from Ukraine or risk being ousted.
Sir Richard was referring to the failed coup by Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin last month and Prigozhin’s criticism of Putin’s chief of staff general Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Sir Richard said the episode had “exposed the inexorable decline of the unstable autocracy” as well as the “venality, infighting and callous incompetence” of the Russian leadership.
Asked if Putin will be ‘overthrown by his people’, Sir Richard said it was ‘up to the Russians’, adding: ‘The answer to these riddles is very clear: withdraw troops from Ukraine.
‘Prigozhin was driven to do what was happening on the battlefield in the Ukraine.
So if you’re sitting in the Kremlin, you need to be aware of the way the chaos and carnage on the battlefield is now playing itself out in the Russian body politic. The best way to ensure greater professional stability is to retire.’
He added: “If you look at Putin’s behavior that day, Prigozhin started as a traitor at breakfast, was pardoned at dinner and two days later was invited to tea… I don’t think you need all the resources of MI6 to conclude that there are deep fractures in the Russian elite around Putin.”
The spymaster, known as C, revealed that “many Russians” had already defected to help MI6 since the invasion. “Come and talk to us,” he urged.
“There are many Russians today who are silently horrified to see their armed forces pulverize Ukrainian cities, drive innocent families from their homes and kidnap thousands of children.
We will handle your offers of help with the discretion and professionalism that characterize my service. Your secrets will always be safe with us.
Speaking at the British ambassador’s residence in Prague, Sir Richard condemned ‘new Russia imperialism’, whereby Putin ‘offers’ Wagner mercenaries to African nations in a ’21st century Faustian pact’ for valuable rights to their mineral wealth.
He warned those nations: ‘If Russian mercenaries can betray Putin, who else could they betray? If they can advance on Moscow, what other capitals could they threaten?
Sir Richard Moore chose to wear kettle cufflinks (pictured) yesterday in a rare public speech at the British Ambassador’s residence in Prague. When asked when he wore the links, he smiled: “I’m not trying to tell you anything… We have this particular yeast extract paste… either you love it or you hate it.”
He added that he remained optimistic that Ukraine could win the war.
Within hours of the speech, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that the defectors could face the same fate as Sergei Skripal, the agent poisoned in Salisbury.
Sir Richard was forced to deny that “MI6 has woken up a bit”. He said: ‘MI6 don’t do culture wars.
What I do want is for my service to better represent the country it serves. That’s a noble goal, but it’s also an intensely practical goal. Diversity brings greater creativity [and] better problem solving.