Sunday 26 May 2019

Kremlin agents tried to recruit me in Cold War - ex-MI5 boss

Spy in demand: Stella Rimington was the first female boss of MI5. Photo: Getty Images
Spy in demand: Stella Rimington was the first female boss of MI5. Photo: Getty Images

Jack Hardy in London

The former head of MI5 has described how Russian agents tried to recruit her at the height of the Cold War, without realising she already worked for British intelligence.

Stella Rimington began her career of spycraft at the British High Commission in New Delhi in the late 1960s as a typist for MI5. The Indian capital was "full of spies at the time" as tensions between the Soviet Union and the West mounted, she said, and the hunt was on for human sources.

Ms Rimington revealed yesterday that she and her husband, who was also posted at the commission, were briefly courted by the Kremlin.

They were unexpectedly introduced to a senior figure from the Soviet embassy while attending a dinner hosted by a "very left-wing couple" with whom they had become friendly.

It was not long before Ms Rimington realised the Russian man was from the KGB, the Soviet security service.

She said: "By that time I was the clerk typist in the MI5 office and alert to this sort of thing and it seemed to me to be an obvious effort to introduce us to somebody from the Soviet Union.

"I realised, quite quickly, this was a man from the KGB because, being the clerk typist in the MI5 office, we had a list of those people we had identified as KGB officers - and he was one of them.

"It was quite clear this was the beginning of a chatting-up operation and it might lead anywhere. We didn't meet those people again."

She added: "They didn't know who we were, but I knew who he was."

Ms Rimington went on to become the first female boss of the security service, having been one of the earliest women to break through into front-line intelligence. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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