Russia’s trade and defence section in Highgate has had its diplomatic status removed after the Home Secretary told Parliament it had been used for spying.

James Cleverly yesterday announced that Moscow’s defence attache, described as an “undeclared military intelligence officer”, would be expelled from the UK and several Russian diplomatic premises - including the Trade Delegation of the Russian Federation in Highgate West Hill - would be closed.

The moves – more than two years after Russia invaded Ukraine - were the latest step in response to a “pattern of alleged Russian malign activity across the UK and Europe” in a bid to “target and dismantle Russian intelligence-gathering operations”, the Home Office said.

Mr Cleverly told MPs: “Our message to Russia is clear. Stop this illegal war, withdraw your troops from Ukraine, cease this malign activity.”

The come after five people were charged over conspiring to commit espionage activities in the UK on behalf of Russia under the National Security Act, the first prosecutions of this kind under the new laws.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Mr Cleverly said: “Today, in conjunction with the Foreign Secretary, I am announcing a package of measures to make clear to Russia that we will not tolerate such apparent escalations.

“I can tell the House that we will expel the Russian defence attache, who is an undeclared military intelligence officer.

“We will remove diplomatic premises status from several Russian-owned properties in the UK, including Seacox Heath house, a Russian-owned property in Sussex, and the trade and defence section in Highgate, which we believe have been used for intelligence purposes.

“We are imposing new restrictions on Russian diplomatic visas, including capping the length of time Russian diplomats can spend in the UK.”

The defence attache, named as Colonel Maxim Elovik, appears to have been in the UK since at least 2014 and has been pictured at wreath-laying ceremonies commemorating Russian war dead in 2020 and 2023.

Before his posting in London, Colonel Elovik served as an assistant military attache at Russia’s embassy in Washington DC.

The Russian Ambassador had been summoned to relay the measures and to “reiterate that Russia’s actions will not be tolerated”, according to the Home Office.

The Government would “look closely to see what response Russia puts forward to see if they seek to escalate this,” the Home Secretary added.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Labour “wholeheartedly” supported the move, telling MPs: “We echo the Home Secretary’s strong condemnation of Russian interference and hostile activity here in the UK and throughout Europe.

“Repeatedly, we have seen a brazen disregard by Russia for the rule of law, for the UK, for our allies, for our domestic security.”

Conservative former minister Rehman Chishti questioned if the UK would bring in legislation to seize Russian assets, adding: “It’s absolutely crucial we do everything we can to cut off Putin’s finances and make sure that he pays for the reconstruction of Ukraine.”

Mr Cleverly replied: “We have absolutely made it clear, we will be incredibly imaginative, we will work hard to ensure that the regime and the people that have funded the brutal attack on Ukraine are also those that fund the rebuilding of Ukraine, and we work with our international partners to make that a reality.”

Reporting by PA