UP TO four Russian spies are feared to be operating in Westminster as one of Vladimir Putin’s alleged spooks was arrested in London.
MPs and their staff have been urged to stay alert as tensions ratchet up with Moscow over the war in Ukraine.
Former UK intelligence officials said it’s likely the Russian security services have recruited political staffers, party officials and those with “some degree of political access” inside Parliament.
And other sources confirmed there are feared to be a “handful” of operatives attempting to infiltrate the heart of the British government.
Mr Karpichkov told The Sun Online: “I know of four sleepers of Russian security services.
“There are several Parliament-sponsored organisations operating in Westminster directly linked to Russian security service operations.”
The warning comes as a suspected Russian spook in his 40s was arrested under the Official Secrets Act as he attempted to leave the UK via Gatwick Airport.
He was taken to Hammersmith police station accused of spying and sabotage that is “useful to an enemy state”.
And it is just months after Westminster was rocked by a major spying scandal after MI5 accused a Labour donor of being a suspected Chinese agent targeting MPs.
The Security Services issued an alert and picture of Chinese national Christine Lee and accused her of “facilitating financial donations to serving and aspiring politicians”.
In light of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, MP Chris Bryant said there have been no recent warnings to MPs about the presence of Russian agents.
But he said it was likely there were a “handful” of Russian moles inside Parliament.
If the war is prolonged then I think we will see Russia reverting back to old Cold War-style spying techniques
Chris Bryant MP
And in a chilling warning, Mr Bryant said: “If the war is prolonged then I think we will see Russia reverting back to old Cold War-style spying techniques.”
A former senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed “skillful” Russians “could easily have recruited” within Parliament.
The official said anyone working in Westminster should “understand the threat” and be “vigilant”.
Russia keeps a stash of cash in Vienna ready to offer to potential double agents.
“I would imagine the Russians would have some sources in Westminster. I would say there are two or three,” he said.
“There will be Russian sources – they are skilful, they are active, of course it’s possible.”
He added: “Everyone needs to be vigilant and understand the threat. The Russians will recruit people who have some degree of political access, if they can.
“If they are inside Westminster, they could be blackmailed. That’s what’s called operational intelligence. “
And while Russian spies operating in the West may feel like something from a James Bond film or a John Le Carre novel, in recent years Britain’s closest US has found themselves rooting out agents working for Putin.
Maria Butina was found to have been acting as a spy and attempting to steer US politics as she embedded herself in Washington DC.
At the time of a heightened crisis and wartime, I think there would be a heightened desire to get that sort of access – particularly as Britain has been so strong in its support of Ukraine
She was jailed in 2018 before being deported back to Russia, where she is now a member of Putin’s parliament – the State Duma.
And then Russian model Anna Chapman, the daughter of a KGB official, was arrested in 2010 after she is suspected to have worked as an agent in the US.
She was given back to the Kremlin regime as part of a spy swap deal along with nine other suspected agents.
Among those agents was Vladimir and Lidiya Guryev – who lived in New Jersey with their two daughters, 11 and 9, under the aliases of Richard and Cynthia Murphy.
The couple attempted to influence US politics, with Lidiya going after an associate of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in 2008.
Another couple with children was also part of the spy swap – Mikhail Kutsik and Nataliya Pereverzeva, also known as Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills.
The duo were rumbled as they claimed be from America and Canada despite their thick accents – and they operated by received coded radio transmissions.
Britain has also been the target by Russia agents in recent years – the most infamous case being the nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
Putin’s men – Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – managed to fly into London Gatwick and catch the train to Salisbury where they attempted to kill the defector and his daughter.
Annie Machon, a former MI5 intelligence officer, said she had “no doubts” the Russians will be trying to infiltrate Westminster.
And she warned there will be an “urgency” to do so in light of the war in Ukraine.
She told The Sun Online: “I think there is a high probability people [in Westminster] will be targeted. Whether or not they have been successful is the unknown factor.
“But I have no doubt the Russians would be trying to do that.
“At the time of a heightened crisis and wartime, I think there would be a heightened desire to get that sort of access – particularly as Britain has been so strong in its support of Ukraine.
“There will be an urgency to it now.”
Ms Machon said it’s unlikely Russian nationals would be employed in sensitive positions in Westminster and it’s more likely Russia will be trying to recruit from the outside.
“One would hope MPs would be warned – especially after the Chinese case,” she said.
“Another warning would have been put out with the acceleration of the Ukraine war, to warn them to look out for signs that someone might be trying to delve into information.”
The Sun Online contacted the security services for comment.