Britain’s counterterrorism unit arrested five people months ago on suspicion of spying on British intelligence, the authorities said on Tuesday after a BBC report on the case earlier in the day identified three of the same people as Bulgarian nationals suspected of spying for Russia’s security services.
A statement from the London Metropolitan Police said that the five people had been arrested in February under the Official Secrets Act 1911, which criminalizes spying against the interests and safety of Britain. Specialist officers from a unit of the force that covers national security policing, carried out the arrests after an investigation, the police statement said, but none of the five have been formally charged with espionage. The statement did not address the BBC report directly.
Three of the people were identified by both the BBC and by the police as Orlin Roussev, 45; Biser Dzambazov, 42; and Katrin Ivanova, 32. The police said they had been separately charged with possessing false identification documents with “improper intention.” The BBC report said they had been charged with possessing false documents, including passports and identity cards for Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Slovenia.
The police said that Mr. Roussev lived in the eastern English county of Norfolk, and that Mr. Dzambazov and Ms. Ivanova lived in the London district of Harrow.
The authorities in Britain, a key ally to Ukraine in the war against Russia’s invasion, have expressed concern about growing threats to national security from Russia. In recent weeks, Britain has expanded sanctions in Russia to include foreign suppliers helping Russia’s war effort.
But even before the war, high-profile attacks had stoked fears over the reach of Moscow’s interference, among them the 2006 fatal poisoning of Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former Russian dissident. Prosecutors also accused two Russian officers of the attempted murder in 2018 of Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer in the quiet English city of Salisbury.