British man accused of 'Russian-backed arson' at a Ukraine-linked site in London

London – A 20-year-old British man has been charged with masterminding an arson plot against a Ukraine-linked target in London for the benefit of the Russian state, prosecutors said Friday.

“Part of the alleged activity included involvement in the planning of an arson attack on a commercial property linked to Ukraine in March 2024,” the Public Prosecution Service said in a statement.

Court documents allege suspect Dylan Earl, from Leicestershire in central England, had links to the banned terrorist group the Wagner groupThis was reported by the British news agency Press Association.

He is accused of organizing and paying for an arson attack on two units on an industrial estate in Leyton, east London, on March 20, which required 60 firefighters to bring the blaze under control. A photo posted to social media by the London Fire Brigade that day showed several storage or warehouse units with fire damage.

The fire brigade said in a statement that three units suffered damage in the fire, which was reported just before midnight and took more than four hours to get under control. It added that the cause of the fire was being investigated by both the fire brigade and London police at the time.

The alleged target of the plot is referred to in the indictment as “Mr.

The CPS, which is prosecuting in England and Wales, said two other men – Paul English, 60, and Nii Mensah, 21 – were also charged with aggravated arson in connection with the case.

A third, Jake Reeves, 22, was charged with accepting a material benefit from a foreign intelligence service and with aggravated arson.

A fifth man, Dmitrijus Paulauska, 22, has been charged with having information about terrorist acts, the CPS added.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said: 'While we must allow the judicial process to take its course, I am deeply concerned by allegations that British nationals are carrying out criminal activities on British soil for the benefit of the Russian state.

“We will use the full weight of the criminal justice system to hold accountable all those found guilty of crimes related to foreign interference,” he wrote on social media platform X.

Dominic Murphy, Metropolitan Police chief of London's Counter Terrorism Command, which is leading the investigation, said: “This is a very important moment and investigation for us.

“Not only are the charges approved by the CPS extremely serious, but it is also the first time we have arrested and charged anyone using the powers and legislation introduced under the National Security Act.”

The National Security Act 2023 came into force in December last year and was intended to respond to “the threat of hostile activities by states targeting the democracy, economy and values ​​of the United Kingdom”, the government said at the time.

All five suspects are due to appear at the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey, London, on May 10.

The indictment comes amid high tensions between Russia and the West, more than two years after President Vladimir Putin ordered it Russia's continued invasion of Ukraine.

German authorities said a week earlier that they had done so arrested two people suspected of spying for Russia, both identified as German-Russian citizens. They are accused of scouting targets for possible attacks in Germany – including US military facilities in the country.

salisbury-novichok suspects
A photo provided by the London Metropolitan Police on September 5, 2018 shows two Russian nationals, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who were charged with the attempted assassination of ex-spy Sergei Skripal using the deadly nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury, England.

Presentation


Relations between Britain and Russia have been poor for years, after declining dramatically in 2018 two Russian spies tried to kill former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in a high-profile assassination attempt using the extremely deadly nerve agent Novichok. Although the attempt was unsuccessful, a local woman who happened to come into contact with the bottle containing the nerve agent was killed.

Both men accused in that attack managed to flee Britain before charges were laid.

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