Back to top

Bus stop leak reveals government misled public over Russian clash

Plaque reading "Ministry of Defence"

Bus stop leak reveals government misled public over Russian clash

UK government claims about the recent clash between the British and Russian navies have been undermined by newly discovered documents.

The Ministry of Defence documents - found at a bus stop in Kent and passed to the BBC - make clear that ministers anticipated a clash with Russian forces, contradicting previous claims that a recent trip by HMS Defender through disputed waters was a normal, “innocent” operation.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the UK’s leading pacifist group, accused both the British and Russian governments of using the incident to stir up military tension and distract public attention from problems at home.

The documents, which were found at a bus stop on Tuesday, have been publicised this afternoon by the BBC, who have quoted only short extracts. The documents reportedly also refer to arms exports, NATO and Afghanistan.

The PPU pointed out that the leaked documents, as quoted by the BBC, describe an “assertive” response to HMS Defender from the Russian navy and air force as “highly likely”.

According to the BBC, the documents discuss public reaction to the deployment of HMS Defender and state, “We have a strong, legitimate narrative”. They note the presence on board of embedded journalists from the BBC and Daily Mail who were expected to back up the Ministry of Defence account.

The PPU urged the BBC to publish the documents as a matter of public interest, redacting only names or other details that would put individuals at risk.

The Peace Pledge Union works with pacifists and other anti-militarists around the world through War Resisters' International. The PPU supports Russian activists campaigning against Vladimir Putin's militarist policies.

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union, said:

So far the BBC has only given short quotes from the leaked documents. They are enough to make clear that this was not the routine naval operation that the government claimed but that the MoD expected military tension from the start. Comments about a strong ‘narrative’, along with the presence of journalists on board, make clear that the MoD, like their Russian counterparts, were prepared to use this as a propaganda exercise.

Boris Johnson and Vladimir Putin are two sides of the same coin. UK and Russian forces use each other’s militarism to justify their own. This does nothing to make people in the UK, Russia or Ukraine any safer. The only things protected by these sort of operations are the profits of arms dealers and the egos of politicians.


The Peace Pledge Union is a group of people who have pledged to resist all war and to tackle the causes of war. Join us here!