The loss of classified military documents about the passage of UK destroyer Defender in Russian waters off Crimea appears to have been a “mistake made by an individual,” Minister of State for Defense Procurement Jeremy Quin said.
The BBC reported on Sunday that sets of classified documents of the UK Ministry of Defense were found at a bus stop in Kent. The documents that were handed to the BBC contained details about London’s plans in Afghanistan after NATO’s withdrawal and a forecast of Russia’s possible reactions to the breach of its maritime border in the Black Sea.
“This is a mistake, it appears. I don’t want to prejudge the investigation but it appears it was a mistake made by an individual,” Quin told the House of Commons on Monday.
The secret papers were lost by a senior official, who after that contacted the department on June 22 to report they were missing, Quin said, adding that this person’s access to sensitive material was suspended.
“I am sorry that this incident happened, a thorough investigation will be carried out,” the minister said, expressing hope the probe will take “as little as a week.”
Commenting on whether it was espionage, the official said it was “clearly a matter for the investigation” that would look at the actions of individuals, from the printing of the papers to the management of the reported incident.
“[B]ut I emphasise to the House that the individual self-reported when he became aware—when the individual became aware—that the documents had been mislaid,” he noted.
The documents have already been returned to the ministry, Quin added.
HMS Defender made inroads to Russia’s territorial waters in the Black Sea on June 23, prompting the Russian navy to fire warning shots. London denied the shots were fired at all, even though Russia’s FSB security service released the video footage of the encounter, confirming Moscow’s account of events.
A BBC correspondent who was aboard the British ship before the incident also said he saw over 20 aircraft overhead and two Russian coastguard boats that shadowed Defender.