Russia has the “intent and ability” to destroy undersea power cables feeding into the UK, wiping billions off the economy as banks are unplugged from the global system, cutting off remote communities and potentially sparking riots. Following UK defence minister Ben Wallace’s warning on Thursday that Russia has “a specific naval programme designed to both look at and potentially sabotage or attack critical national infrastructure belonging to its adversaries”, experts have explained the severity of the risk facing Britain as it continues to support Ukraine in its defence of its country against Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion.
It is believed that such an attack would be “disastrous” for the UK, with hospitals, schools, banks and public transport just several of the sectors susceptible to damage.
Russia has invested heavily in sea-bed warfare technology in the past decade and western analysts believe they are now using this software in the North Sea and around Scandinavia.
Ships and submarines capable of operating mini-subs and robots to work at great depth, which could potentially carry out sabotage attacks, have already allegedly been spotted by Scandinavian journalists.
Dr Dwayne Ryan Menezes, of the Polar Research & Policy Initiative, said the ramifications of an attack could be far-reaching and even “lead to civil unrest”.
He said: “Damage to undersea telecommunications and power cables could prove disastrous for the UK.
“[It could] cause internet outages and power blackouts; affect homes and businesses; cut off communities; disrupt telephone, mobile and internet services, public transport, emergency services, hospitals, schools and universities, and local governments.
“[It could] render it impossible to make international financial transactions; and have significant adverse consequences for the UK’s economy and London’s standing as the world’s most international and connected global financial centre.
“As damage to cables can take days or weeks to fix, it could even lead to potential civil unrest and riots.”
Costs, though difficult to estimate, could certainly run into the billions, he told MailOnline.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace warned this week that Moscow has submarines and spy ships designed to attack underwater energy and communication lines.
“What we know is the Russians have a work programme, they have a specific naval programme designed to both look at and potentially sabotage or attack critical national infrastructure belonging to its adversaries,” he said.
“It has a number of submarines and other pieces of equipment and spy ships and everything else specifically designed for that purpose.”
Having signed a new security partnership with Norway, Mr Wallace added: “Russia has the intent and the capability to target the West’s critical national infrastructure. We have to have the intent and the capability to defend it.”
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In October last year, ministers ordered an urgent survey of undersea power and internet cables amid fears Russia may have already targeted them with mines.
Their suspicions came a month after three explosions tore open the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines and destroyed main gas links from Russia to Europe.
It remains unknown who carried out the attacks but in April this year, a team of investigative journalists from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland claimed to have uncovered evidence that at least three Russian vessels were operating in the area in the lead-up to those blasts.
Last month, deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden told Express.co.uk that Russian-affiliated hackers were also intent on committing cyber terrorism by hacking Britain’s critical infrastructure.
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