Kremlin will target top ministers like Boris - Chris Bryant

Senior British politicians such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson are being targeted by the Kremlin for potentially compromising details about their private lives which could be used to discredit them, a former Foreign Office minister has claimed.

Chris Bryant, who was Europe minister in the last Labour government, said he had been the victim of such tactics himself and was "absolutely certain" Moscow would be gathering information on prominent government figures.

As well as Mr Johnson, he said other ministers likely to be in the Russians' sights would include Sir Alan Duncan, who has the Russia brief at the Foreign Office, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Brexit Secretary David Davis.

His claims follow the leak of report by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele that the Russians had compiled a file of compromising material on Donald Trump - allegations which were angrily dismissed as "fake news" by the US president-elect.

Mr Bryant told The Observer:  "Any minister who goes into the Foreign Office and has responsibility for Russia, they (Moscow) will be, in any shape or form, trying to put together information about them.

"I am absolutely certain that Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Alan Duncan, who has the Russia brief, and David Davis will have been absolutely looked at.

"All of these people the Russians will be following very, very closely. They will have created a file and they'll be attempting to watch everything they do."

He said technological advances made it far easier for intelligence agencies to gather personal information.

"You can do a lot of the work by long distance now, you don't physically have to be close to somebody to be able to track them, using their mobile phones and so on," he said.

Mr Bryant, a long-standing critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin's record on human rights, said had been the victim of a homophobic campaign orchestrated by the embassy in London after he became the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Russia.

"When I was chair of the all-party Russia group the embassy helped organise to have me removed," he said.

"I heard back from various other Conservative MPs who are friends of mine, saying that the problem is that Putin hates you and they want rid of you." 

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