Classified Ministry of Defence (MoD) documents found at a bus stop last month were leaked as a result of a mistake, not espionage, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has confirmed.
Wallace told MPs on Monday that the papers had not been compromised by the UK’s adversaries.
The 50-pages of papers, including documents relating to the likely reaction of the Russians to the passage of the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender through waters off the coast of Crimea and to the UK military presence in Afghanistan, were found in a soggy heap at a bus stop in Kent on June 22 by a member of the public, who handed them to the BBC.
The MoD said at the time that the loss of the documents had been reported by an employee the week prior.
After an investigation into the incident, Wallace assured MPs on Monday, “We are confident that we have recovered all the secret papers.”
“The investigation has found no evidence of espionage and has concluded there has been no compromise of the papers by our adversaries,” he said.
Wallace said the investigation has independently confirmed the circumstances of the loss, “including the management of the papers within the department, the location at which the papers were lost, and the manner in which that occurred,” and they are consistent with the account of the individual who lost the papers.
The individual concerned has been removed from “sensitive work” and has already had their security clearance suspended pending a full review.
“For security reasons, the department will be making no further comment on the nature of the loss or on the identity of the individual,” Wallace added.
Russia said on June 23 that it fired shots and dropped bombs in the path of the UK’s HMS Defender near Cape Fiolent, a landmark on the southern coast of Crimea near the port of Sevastopol, headquarters of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet.
The UK has denied Russia’s claim, saying that the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise and that no shots had been fired at the British warship, which was “conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters.”
Russia seized and annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and it considers areas around the peninsula’s coast to be Russian waters. Western countries consider the peninsula to be part of Ukraine and have rejected Russia’s claim to the seas around it.
PA contributed to this report.