VIDEO: KGB tried to recruit me as a student – David Cameron
KGB agents tried and failed to recruit David Cameron when he was a young student, the British Prime Minister told his Russian hosts on a visit to Moscow.
He joked that he apparently failed to pass the “interview” during the bizarre incident on a gap-year trip to the Black Sea coast in 1985.
When told of the incident, President Dmitry Medvedev said that Mr Cameron would have made a “very good KGB agent”.
Mr Cameron described the apparent approach during a speech to students at the Moscow State university. “I first came to Russia as a student on my gap year between school and university in 1985,” he said. “I took the Trans-Siberian railway from Nakhodka to Moscow and went on to the Black Sea coast.
“There, two Russians, speaking perfect English, turned up on a beach mostly used by foreigners.”
He continued: “They took me out to lunch and dinner and asked me about life in England and what I thought about England.”
A naive Mr Cameron apparently did not immediately realise what had happened at the resort of Yalta until returning to Britain. He is understood to have been travelling with a friend, Anthony Griffith. The Prime Minister said: “When I got back I told my tutor at university and he asked me whether it was an interview. If it was, it seems I didn’t get the job.”
The anecdote was met with an uncomfortable reaction among the Russian students in the auditorium.
But later, when asked about the incident, President Medvedev and other senior Russian figures laughed it off.
“David would have been a very good KGB agent, but in this case he would never have become a Prime Minister of the UK,” the Russian President said at a press conference in the Kremlin.
There have long been rumours that Left-wing politicians, including the Labour prime minister Harold Wilson, were groomed by the KGB. However, it is unusual for a Right-wing politician to admit any links to the Soviets. Mr Cameron said he had to disclose the incident to MI5 in 1990 when he applied for a job as a special adviser to Norman Lamont in the Treasury.
Former KGB spies cast doubt on the story. Mikhail Bogdanov, 58, a former London-based KGB spy, said: “I suspect Mr Cameron is flattering himself a bit, in the way that he is the victim of a perception about the Soviet Union, and now Russia, that there are spies everywhere, and the almighty KGB wants to recruit everyone.”
Igor Prelin, 74, a retired KGB colonel, added: “I would not necessarily call it recruiting, but it might have been a meeting aimed at making friends. We had a good system of databases and a simple check of the name could have brought amazing results.”
The meeting between Mr Cameron and Mr Putin was said to be formal and focused on economic issues.
Mr Putin said to the Prime Minister: “We are very glad to see you and this is the first visit by the Prime Minister of Great Britain in the past five years. I should say the trade and economic development over the past years has been developing very successfully.”
Mr Cameron said that the meeting provided a “great opportunity for Great Britain and Russia to try to build a stronger relationship”.