Ex-guard at UK’s Berlin embassy admits spying for Russia

LONDON (AP) — A former security guard at the British embassy in Berlin has admitted spying for Russia and faces up to 14 years in prison.

David Ballantyne Smith, 58, pleaded guilty to eight charges under the Official Secrets Act. Prosecutors say he gave Gen. Maj. Sergey Chukhurov, Russia’s military attache in Berlin, information about the activities, identities, addresses and phone numbers of British civil servants.

Smith also collected intelligence, some of it classed secret, on the operation and layout of the embassy, which prosecutors said would be useful to “an enemy, namely the Russian state.”

Smith admitted guilt during a hearing last week at London’s Central Criminal Court, but the pleas were covered by reporting restrictions until Friday, when prosecutors dropped a ninth charge that Smith had denied.

Prosecutors say Smith was motivated by a hatred of Britain and its embassy, where he had worked for eight years, and had expressed sympathy with Russian authorities. They claim he was angry that the embassy flew the rainbow flag in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

Smith’s lawyer, Matthew Ryder, said his client denied prosecutors’ description of “why he did what he did and the seriousness of the allegations.” He said Smith did not have “a negative intention towards the U.K.”

Smith was arrested by German police at his home in Potsdam, southwest of Berlin in August 2021 and extradited to the U.K. in April.

He will be sentenced at a later date and faces a maximum 14-year sentence.

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