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British worker at UK embassy in Berlin pleads guilty to Russia spying charges

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A British man who worked in the UK embassy in Berlin has pleaded guilty to eight offences under the Official Secrets Act related to passing on information useful to Russia.

David Ballantyne Smith, who was living in Potsdam, Germany and was employed as a security guard at the embassy, was extradited to Britain from Germany following his arrest by German police in August 2021.

The 58-year-old pleaded guilty to eight offences on Nov. 4. Judge Mark Wall lifted restrictions on reporting Smith’s pleas on Friday after the prosecution indicated it will not seek a trial on a ninth charge to which Smith pleaded not guilty.

Smith appeared at the Old Bailey in London last week and pleaded guilty to one charge of passing information about British civil servants to General Major Sergey Chukhurov, described in the prosecution indictment as the Russian military attaché to Berlin, between October and December 2020.

He also admitted seven other charges relating to collecting information which might be “useful to an enemy, namely the Russian state”, including material “relating to the operation and layout of the British embassy in Berlin”.

Smith’s lawyer Matthew Ryder told the court that there is “a very large difference between the (prosecution) and Mr Smith about his motivation”.

“His intention and why he did what he did and the seriousness of the allegations as the (prosecution) put them are strongly disputed by Mr Smith,” Ryder added.

A hearing is expected to take place in February 2023 to determine the basis on which Smith will be sentenced.

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