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Russia poses risk to undersea cables: UK defense chief

British Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach in London. (File photo/Reuters)
LONDON: The head of Britain’s military said that Russia could try to sever undersea communications cables, and protecting them is a defense priority for NATO.
Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach said cutting or disrupting the cables could have a “potentially catastrophic” economic effect.
Peach told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute that “along with our Atlantic allies, we have prioritized missions and tasks to protect the sea lines of communication.”
Peach said that Russia “in addition to new ships and submarines continues to perfect both unconventional capabilities and information warfare.” He said NATO is working “to match and understand Russian fleet modernization.”
Earlier this month, the Policy Exchange think-tank highlighted how Russia had “easily” severed all digital communications to Crimea during its 2014 invasion of the Black Sea peninsula.
Separately, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Friday it had uncovered a cell of Daesh that was planning imminent terror attacks in the country’s second city Saint Petersburg.
“The FSB identified and stopped the activities of a clandestine cell of IS (Daesh) supporters who planned to commit attacks on December 16,” the security service said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
According to the FSB, the group planned a suicide attack and “the killing of citizens” in crowded areas of the northern city.
Seven members of the cell were arrested during raids that took place on Wednesday and Thursday.
The police confiscated a “large number of explosives used to make homemade bombs, automatic rifles, munitions and extremist literature,” the statement said.
On Tuesday, FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov said Russia was on alert for the possible return of militants from Syria ahead of the World Cup and presidential election in 2018.
As many as 40,000 fighters traveled from all over the world, including Russia, to join Daesh in Syria after the 2014 declaration of its self-styled “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq.
In 2015, Russian security services estimated that 2,900 Russian citizens had joined the radical group, as well as “several thousand” Central Asians.
Russia has suffered several terrorist assaults in recent years, including a deadly attack in Saint Petersburg that left 14 dead in April this year.