Sensitive Ministry of Defence (MoD) documents have been found by a member of the public at a bus stop, according to reports.
The MoD said the department has launched an investigation after the employee concerned with the loss of documents reported it last week.
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At a glance: 5 key points
- The documents are said to contain details about HMS Defender and the military.
- The papers included one set of documents discussing the potential Russian reaction to HMS Defender’s travel through Ukrainian waters off the Crimea coast on Wednesday (23 June).
- The other papers laid plans for a possible UK military presence in Afghanistan.
- The 50 pages of classified information were found in a soggy heap behind a bus stop in Kent early on Tuesday (22 June) morning.
- The member of the public who found the documents contacted the BBC to report it and wishes to remain anonymous.
What’s been said
The MoD said the department was informed of an incident regarding the recovery of sensitive defence papers by a member of the public last week.
A spokesperson said: “The department takes the security of information extremely seriously and an investigation has been launched.
“The employee concerned reported the loss at the time. It would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey described the incident as “embarrassing” and said it is “worrying for ministers”.
He added: “It’s vital the internal inquiry launched by the Secretary of State establishes immediately how highly classified documents were taken out of the Ministry of Defence in the first place and then left in this manner.
“Ultimately ministers must be able to confirm to the public that national security has not been undermined, that no military or security operations have been affected and that the appropriate procedures are in place to ensure nothing like this happens again.”
HMS Defender is part of the UK Carrier Strike Group and is currently heading to the Indo-Pacific region.
It was announced earlier this month that it would be temporarily breaking away from the group to carry out its “own set of missions” in the Black Sea.
The Type 45 destroyer caused a clash with Russian forces on Wednesday after it travelled through waters south of the Crimea peninsula, which Russia unofficially annexed from Ukraine in 2014, in a move which was not recognised by international powers.
Moscow responded by having several aircraft shadowing the ship at varying heights, the lowest being approximately 500 feet, which Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said was “neither safe nor professional”.
Russia also claimed that warning shots were fired by their vessels at the destroyer, although this was dismissed by the UK Government which said only a routine “gunnery exercise” took place.
Moscow has threatened to retaliate if the incident is repeated, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted the warship was “entirely right” to make the trip from Odessa in Ukraine to Georgia as an internationally-recognised transit route.
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