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Russia in unstable state, spy trial told

IT WOULD BE 'foolhardy' to disregard the possibility that Russia could revive hostilities with Britain, an Old Bailey court was told yesterday.

The comment by the Solicitor- General, Sir Derek Spencer QC, was made during the prosecution summary in the trial of an engineer accused of spying for Russian intelligence. Sir Derek said there were secrets 'that you don't even give to your friends'.

He described the political situation in the former Soviet Union as 'unstable and confused' and said the after-effects of the coup which dislodged Mikhail Gorbachev as Soviet leader were 'still uncertain'.

The Solicitor-General is leading the Crown's case against Michael Smith, 45, from Kingston, south- west London, who is accused of handing over material 'to an enemy of the state' between 1990 and his arrest in August last year.

Mr Smith worked at GEC's Hirst Research Centre (HRC) in north London from 1985 until last year. It is claimed that he is a former Communist Party member who lied about his party affiliation to gain security clearance when he worked for EMI on weapons projects during the late 1970s.

Sir Derek reminded the jury that during the opening days of the trial he had warned of political uncertainty in Russia. 'The words were hardly off my lips when we saw another crank of the wheel of revolution,' he said.

Although relations with Russia had improved since the days of the Cold War, he questioned whether documents such as information on Britain's ground-to-air Rapier missile system should be handed to the Russia 'we have seen in turmoil'.

Mr Smith's defence has centred on his claim that he handed over only 'obsolete' documents to a man he knew as Harry Williams. He claims not to have spied for the KGB, but to have been involved in commercial espionage.

Sir Derek maintained that Mr Smith knew the importance of documents from HRC found in his possession, and was paid pounds 20,000 for other material specifically requested during his time of allegedly working for the KGB.

The trial continues today.