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Briton charged with aiding Russia and planning arson against Ukraine-linked business in UK


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A 20-year-old British man has been charged with planning an arson attack on a Ukraine-linked business and assisting Russian intelligence services.

Dylan Earl, from Elmesthorpe in Leicestershire, has been charged under the National Security Act 2023, the first case to involve alleged offences under the new legislation.

Jake Reeves, 22, from Croydon, has also been charged under the act after a fire at a warehouse in Leyton, east London, in March.

Three other men – Paul English, Nii Mensah and Dmitrijus Paulauska – have also been charged in connection with the investigation, it can now be reported, but not under the new legislation.

Earl is accused of undertaking fraudulent activity, research and reconnaissance of targets, and attempting to recruit individuals to materially assist a foreign intelligence service carrying out UK-related activities, prosecutors have said.

He is alleged to have targeted businesses linked to Ukraine in order to benefit the Russian state, the Crown Prosecution Service said. He is accused of organising and paying for an arson attack on two units at the industrial estate in Leyton, east London, on 20 March.

The blaze required 60 firefighters to bring it under control.

Earl is alleged by prosecutors to be connected to the proscribed terrorist organisation the Wagner group. The mercenary group has played a prominent role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has also been active in conflicts in Syria, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Libya.

Nick Price, the head of the CPS special crime and counter-terrorism division, said: “Dylan Earl, 20, is alleged to have engaged in conduct targeting businesses which were linked to Ukraine in order to benefit the Russian state.

“Included in the alleged activity was involvement in the planning of an arson attack on a Ukrainian-linked commercial property in March 2024.

“Two further men, Paul English, 60, and Nii Mensah, 21, have also been charged with aggravated arson in connection with this case.

“Another man, Jake Reeves, 22, has been charged with agreeing to accept a material benefit from a foreign intelligence service as well as aggravated arson.

“A fifth man, Dmitrijus Paulauska, 22, has been charged with having information about terrorist acts.”

English, from Roehampton, south-west London, and Mensah, from Thornton Heath, south London, appeared at Westminster magistrates court on Monday.

Earl appeared at Westminster magistrates court on 20 April. His identity can now be revealed after reporting restrictions were lifted on Friday.

Reeves and Paulauska, from Croydon, south London, appeared at Westminster magistrates court on Friday. All five defendants will appear for a hearing at the Old Bailey on 10 May. The defendants are yet to enter pleas.

Commander Dominic Murphy, the head of the Met’s counter-terrorism command, said: “This is a highly significant moment and investigation for us. Not only are the charges that have been authorised by the CPS extremely serious, but it is also the first time that we have arrested, and now charged anyone using the powers and legislation brought in under the National Security Act.

“This investigation remains ongoing, but now that charges have been brought about I would urge everyone to respect the criminal justice process and not to speculate or comment further in relation to this case.”

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