Members of the British elite reportedly attended a dinner at the Cavalry and Guards Club in Piccadilly last month to celebrate the UK launch of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS). The secretive group is accused of having close ties with Russian intelligence. Others attending the launch event included the Marquess of Bristol, Prince Charles’ cousin Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia and the Russian ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, according to The Sunday Times. Of the clandestine gathering, Russia expert Andrew Foxall said: “This is one of the clearest cases I have seen of a Russian influence operation reaching the highest levels of British society.”
The most senior permanent officer of the Queen’s bodyguard Colonel Christopher Mackenzie-Beevor spoke at the dinner saying his bishop father “would be rejoicing that his son would be in such a discussion” defending traditional norms in the West.
However, he claimed he spoke at the dinner to welcome people because the chairman had asked him to.
He added he had no other involvement with the society and its alleged intelligence role.
The supposed scholarly society is headed by the former Russian spy chief Sergei Stepashin with numerous other ex-KGB and FSB directors also holding senior roles in the organisation.
The gathering took place on February 21, almost a year after the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury by Russian military intelligence agents.
In 2008, a leaked US State Department cable also said the organisation is “not independent of the Russian government”.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov said in 2016 that the society was being revived to further “fundamental interests of the Russian state”.
Although the society has spiritual aspects Mr Lavrov added that the organisation was “an essential instrument for consolidating Russia’s positions”.
Last year, two Russian diplomats were associated with the society were expelled by Greece after they were accused of attempting to “bribe state officials” and “interfere in Greece’s internal affairs”.
The Russian foreign ministry denied all charges.
However, Chairman of the new UK branch Michael Wynne-Parker said the society was a “religious and cultural” organisation which was fighting to preserve traditional Christian values.
He said he was “not aware” of any intelligence links and that the dinner brought together “members of the Establishment who are not persuaded that Russia is the enemy. But the idea that we are a den of Russian collaborators is crazy”.
Published at Sun, 03 Mar 2019 02:19:00 +0000