Operation Foot | The British MI5 takedown of the Soviet KGB in Britain – 1971

Operation Foot – took place in the UK against the Soviet KGB during 1971 at the height of The Cold War, and remains to this day the greatest counter espionage operation in history.

The result of Operation Foot was, after the work of 100s of MI5 intelligence officers, that 105 Soviet Diplomats were expelled from the UK, and 100s of Soviet citizens’ work visa revoked and deported. Several people both British and foreign were awarded long prison sentences for spying.
The operation marked a major turning point in Cold War counter-espionage operations in Britain; and made Britain a hard espionage target for Soviet intelligence for the remainder of the Cold War.

In this MI5 and KGB Documentary, we examine how after a decade of British political weakness during the 1960s had allowed Soviet KGB espionage to infiltrate many elements of the British Military, Government and Political establishment.
The election of a hawkish Prime Minister – Sir Edward Heath, in June 1970 saw a sea change in British Government attitudes to Soviet espionage activities within the UK.
The British were pressured by their allies The United States of America to get their ‘house in order’ as the US was reluctant to share to Top Secret Intelligence under the Five Eyes agreement for fear it would be leaked to the Soviets.
So the British Secret Services (MI5) were unleashed with a brief to eradicate all KBG spies within the British Isles with 12 months by all means necessary, and MI5 Intelligence Officers set about infiltrating the Soviet Embassy and Soviet Trade Delegation in London.

The Operation Foot story includes a ‘playboy’ KGB Officer, Oleg Lyalin who was sleeping with his boss’ wife; who when confronted by MI5 became a double agent and ultimately a Soviet defector; but who then brought the whole operation crashing down after a drunken incident in London.

A henpecked Royal Navy Officer David Bingham, a submarine sonar expert, bullied into spying for the Soviets by his spendthrift and domineering wife Maureen.
And a high level British Spy, Geoffrey Prime, based in GCHQ the British Government’s Signals Intelligence (SIG-INT) agency. Prime harboured a much, much darker secrets than being a spy, that would cause his ultimate downfall and see him jailed for 38 years.

The story finishes with an update on the lives of all the ‘players’ of Op Foot today; after the collapse of The Soviet Union and how a young KGB Officer who joined the KGB during the Op Foot era – Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – is now the high profile President of the Russian Federation.

The events of the obscure Op Foot were the inspiration for two classic spy novels: ‘Tinker, Tailor Solder Spy’ by John Le Carre. And ‘The Fourth Protocol’ by Frederick Forsyth, both made into Hollywood Movies in recent years.


00:12 The Political Background
09:29 The KGB in the UK 1960 – 197-0
17:24 The KGB Playboy
20:31 David Bingham – The Henpecked Royal Navy Officer
25:56 Oleg Lyalin goes for a quiet drink
29:33 Operation Foot – The Take down
34:40 Geoffrey Prime – The Spy who got away
39:46 Epilogue / Update on personalities

#coldwar #sovietunion #spy #topsecret #putin #russia #MI5