United Kingdom

Russian-born soldier sues MoD over 'spy fears'

A Russian-born soldier rejected by the Intelligence Corps is suing the Ministry of Defence for race discrimination, claiming they thought he might become a spy, an employment tribunal heard.

Gleb Steshov, 33, whose family came to the UK seeking asylum from the KGB when he was 13, wanted to join the Army because he was "extremely grateful to the UK", the tribunal in central London was told.

He said it was his "dream" to be a Russian translator for the Intelligence Corps but he had joined the Parachute Regiment because of the promise of similar work. When he later tried to join the Corps, he was rejected.

He also claimed he was humiliated by being ordered to march and sing Russian songs to superiors or face a "beasting", the hearing was told. The tribunal heard that he said he was bullied during training and repeatedly asked why he didn't join the Russian army. Although he did not raise an official grievance at the time, the allegations surfaced as background to his case against the MoD.

In a statement submitted to the tribunal by Mr Steshov, he alleged that his attempts to join the Intelligence Corps were halted because the Army thought he might become a Russian spy, and that the MoD rigged language exam results and left compromising paperwork on his records. It said: "Corporal Steshov felt that the MoD had suspicions about his past and had put obstacles and excuses in his way to thwart him joining the [Corps].

"His lack of success in becoming a Russian interpreter is regarded by him as 'ridiculously strange'.

"Cpl Steshov believes that his failure to be selected as a Russian interpreter is due to suspicions that he might engage in espionage."

Mr Steshov accepted that his first application had failed on the grounds that he had not been a British citizen for at least 10 years. According to his statement, he accepted that a second application was knocked back because he had not taken a Russian language exam.

At his third attempt he was told his English was not good enough, despite his claims that lower-scoring candidates were accepted.

He alleges that he was never used as a translator despite scoring highly on a 2014 military Russian language test. He later retook the test but claims a lower grade was "reverse engineered".

Mr Steshov is trying to claim a loss of earnings from the MoD, claiming that he left prematurely because of racial discrimination. He also wants compensation for personal injury and injury to feelings, for his exam grade to be removed from records, and for the tribunal to recommend that the MoD "take action to reduce the likelihood of continuing discriminatory conduct".

Robert Moretto, for the MoD, said: "For the avoidance of doubt, it is denied that the responded discriminated against the claimant because of his race, harassed him through unwanted conduct related to race, or subjected him to victimisation under the Equality Act 2010 as alleged or at all."

The tribunal continues.

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