Russia is spying on vital UK infrastructure weak spots, and could kill "thousands and thousands and thousands" of people, UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson has warned.
A specific risk was four subsea electricity connections with the continent, and a further four subsea connections for gas imports, which he said Russia was probing.
He said it was "the real threat… the country is facing at the moment", in language the BBC said would be seen as "alarmist".
In an interview with newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Williamson said Moscow was spying on energy supplies which, if cut, could cause "total chaos" in the country.
His claim comes as the UK’s Ministry of Defence is trying to ward off spending cuts.
New in his post since November, Williamson said Russia had been researching these types of connections and was prepared to act in a way "any other nation would see as completely unacceptable".
He told the Telegraph: "The plan for the Russians won’t be for landing craft to appear in the South Bay in Scarborough, and off Brighton beach.
"They are going to be thinking, how can we just cause so much pain to Britain?
"Damage its economy, rip its infrastructure apart, actually cause thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths, but actually have an element of creating total chaos within the country."
The BBC’s defence correspondent, Jonathan Beale, said some may see the defence secretary’s language as "alarmist".
But he was backed by former First Sea Lord and security minister Lord West, who told the paper he was "absolutely certain" Russia was probing how to get into the UK’s critical infrastructure.
Earlier this week the chief of the National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin, said Russia had already staged attacks against Britain’s media, telecommunications and energy sectors over the past year, the BBC reported.
Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin en route to the Khmeimim air base in Syria, 11 December 2017 (Kremlin photograph)
What utter nonsense. Supposing, for one moment, that Russia were to cause catastrophic damage to our communication and energy infrastructure, resulting in severed communication links and disrupted energy supplies. The London financial markets along with those in North America are the most important in the world. The effects of crippling London’s financial markets, which such actions would no doubt result in, would ripple around the globe; stock values would plummet, international financial trading would be severely affected directly impacting Europe, the US and global growth as a whole. Russia too would not escape unscathed. Trade between the two countries is work approximately £10bn, not to mention retaliation by other countries. Europe is one of Russia’s key energy export markets, supplying over 40% of gas consumed in Europe. Politically Nord Stream 2 would be dead, and any hope of normalising agricultural trade with Europe would be lost. Why would Russia attack a small island in the North Atlantic that has no natural resources, whose military strength is insignificant, that would serve only to destabilise the global economy. This does not bear the slightest scrutiny.
Media reports such as this and those promoting similar ideas in major media outlets are published unchallenged, without any demand for or reference to evidence or proof. This is highly irresponsible and undermines the role of journalism in a civilised society. The US and UK’s unjustified invasion of Iraq which caused untold devastation and destruction is still fresh in our memory, founded as it was on alarmist and fabricated reports of external threats to our security, not dissimilar to those currently being circulated about Russia. Interestingly, all this comes at a time when the military is threatened with defence cuts, the UK and the US are desperately trying to reassert their influence in the Middle East, and sew discord and division in Europe.
It is nigh time that certain external actors in this region are shown the door, so that its people can build peace and understanding through dialogue, mutual understanding and respect.
This is nothing other than dirty politics drawn from a deep well of mendacity, and it should be seen for what it is – narrow, parochial and anachronistic.
Why do they need to attack when all they have to do is turn off the taps, as they have done in the Ukraine. We also have the Chinese and the French building Hinckley C, don’t for one minute think there will not be an “off switch” somewhere in China, we have sold all our assets to overseas companies, the majority of which are state owned, the UK needs to wake up and stop Sabre rattling and bring the utility companies back in house along with the railways
We live our own lives. We have enough of our means and natural resources. We love all countries and we want to live in peace. This is a complete fake. This was invented for YOU, as a terrible fairy tale. It is not real.
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