It comes after warnings from Russian experts that attacks on senior politicians are being planned in retaliation for sending arms to Ukraine. One Kremlin expert last night said: “We should brace for impact.”
While the potential for attacks on UK infrastructure have been a stark reality since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, new information has pointed specifically to the targeting of high-profile individuals.
Security for Boris Johnson and his ministers has been increased, sources say, and SAS soldiers dressed in Ukrainian uniforms have shadowed the PM on his visits to Ukraine.
The elite regiment has now been deployed in Britain to work alongside armed police teams from Counter Terrorism Command operating across London and other cities. A headquarters has been set up alongside the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre run by MI5 in central London.
The troops are operating undercover to monitor operations at airports, passenger seaports and commercial freight ports.
Teams drawn from the SAS and the SBS are on alert, supported by two “Blue Thunder” Sikorsky S-76 helicopters painted in civilian colours.
But Whitehall sources fear that Russia’s willingness to use proxies, including Islamic jihadist, Iranian and other groups already in Britain, may make thwarting an assassination attempt difficult.
“Using proxy agents is the most obvious avenue, as it’s the most difficult for us to counter,” a source said.
It is feared Putin will deploy “neat and discreet solutions”, such as the use of nerve agents like Novichok which nearly killed Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in 2018.
“Successfully targeting a senior UK politician would be a big coup. Secret and discreet methods are still available,” warned Keir Giles, of Chatham House think-tank.