Beware Putin’s ‘kompromat plot’, ex-Foreign Office minister warns Boris Johnson

The Kremlin may be plotting against UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and top diplomats, possibly by collecting compromising details on them, a former FCO minister claims, fanning the flames of ‘Russian influence’ hysteria already ablaze in the US.

Chris Bryant, a Labour MP and a former minister for Europe at the Foreign Office, said he is “absolutely certain” that incumbent British politicians are being scrutinized by Russia’s intelligence agencies.

“Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Alan Duncan who has the Russia brief, and [Brexit secretary] David Davis will have been absolutely looked at,” he told the Observer. “All of these people the Russians will be following very, very closely. They will have created a file and they’ll be attempting to watch everything they do.” 

Bryant warned that Britain’s adversaries, including Russia, are so technologically advanced that they can conspire against Whitehall – even from within their own borders.

“You can do a lot of the work by long distance now, you don’t physically have to be close to somebody to be able to track them, using their mobile phones and so on,” he said.

Bryant’s remarks were widely circulated among British tabloids, which have frequently begun to use the word ‘kompromat’ – Russian jargon for compromising materials – in connection to Moscow's alleged ‘influence ops’ against Western countries.

His statements sit well with a series of unsubstantiated allegations by the US intelligence community that Russia could blackmail President-elect Donald Trump with compromising details of his personal life. A recent dossier released by BuzzFeed alleged Russia possessed lurid sex videos of Trump, a claim the leader-in-waiting dismissed while referring to BuzzFeed as a “failing pile of garbage.”

Notably, some top-tier members of the US intelligence community distanced themselves from the report. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asserted that the credibility of the file had not been verified by US secret services, while the majority of Western corporate media refrained from over-reporting the story. 

Similarly, Bryant of the Labour Party failed to give any hard evidence backing the dossier, though he claimed that he himself had felt the heavy hand of the Kremlin five years ago.

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“When I was chair of the all-party Russia group the embassy helped organize to have me removed,” he said. “I heard back from various other Conservative MPs who are friends of mine saying that the problem is that Putin hates you and they want rid of you.”

Fanning fears of Russia’s sinister actions in the West has taken place in the past. Last year, a number of British tabloids speculated on a claim that Russian officials had been ordered to fly their families home from the West.

“Russia ‘urgently recalls officials’ families living abroad’ as WW3 threat looms,” read a headline of the Daily Star, which was apparently the first British newspaper to report the unsourced story.

When asked about the report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was the first time he had heard about the alleged pull-out of Russian officials’ family members.