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British government's top-secret defence documents found at bus stop in Kent

The documents found at the bus stop contained 50 pages of top-secret information about Britain's ministry of defence, including a possible military presence in Afghanistan at the end of NATO operations there.
British destroyer HMS Defender arrives at the port of Batumi, in Georgia, on Saturday, June 26, 2021. (Vasil Gedenidze/British Embassy in Georgia via AP)
Published on Jun 27, 2021 04:10 PM IST
Byhindustantimes.com | Written by Joydeep Bose, New Delhi

A bunch of classified documents of the United Kingdom government, containing highly confidential details about the British military and foreign policy, were found at a bus stop in Kent, southeast of London, news agencies reported on Sunday. The 50-page document was discovered with the help of an anonymous tip to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The UK government said that it was investigating how the documents landed there, adding that an internal inquiry had been launched into the matter.

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According to news agency AFP, the documents found at the bus stop contained 50 pages of top-secret information about Britain's ministry of defence, including a possible military presence in Afghanistan at the end of NATO operations there. Primarily, however, the papers dealt with the Russian reaction to the passage of a British warship through Ukrainian waters off the coast of Crimea.

The warship in context is a British navy destroyer named the HMS Defender, which is sailing close to the coast of Crimea, as per the BBC. Russia had annexed Crimea from Ukraine back in 2014, so it saw the British destroyer's presence in the Black Sea as a violation of its territorial waters and fired a series of warning shots in retaliation, the broadcaster added.

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It is to be noted that Russia's annexation of Crimea has still not been recognised by a vast majority of the international community. The UK, however, had denied any malintent and said the ship was simply making "an innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law."

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Now, the retrieved documents seem to show that Britain already knew the kind of reaction it would provoke from Russia and yet continued to pursue its course, lest an alternate route made Moscow think of the UK as "being scared/running away". The papers also revealed that by letting the warship take this route, the UK government was, after all, hoping to gain an opportunity to "engage with the Ukrainian government... in what the UK recognises as Ukrainian territorial waters."

The secret documents retrieved at the Kent bus stop were reported lost from the Ministry of Defence last week, the government said, adding that investigation is underway into the matter. "It shouldn't be able to happen," Brandon Lewis, minister for Northern Ireland, was quoted as saying. "It was properly reported at the time... there's an internal investigation into that situation," he added.

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