LONDON, U.K. - In a stark warning, Andrew Parker, the Director General of U.K.’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, criticized Russia over “flagrant breaches of international rules.”
Addressing security chiefs from European intelligence agencies in Berlin, Parker used his speech to the intelligence community to criticize Russia's aggressive activity and warned that the Vladimir Putin-led country is seeking to undermine European democracies.
In what were his first public comments since the Salisbury nerve agent attack, Parker said that the attempted assassination of the Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a "deliberate and targeted malign activity.”
He addressed the campaign of disinformation that followed the attack on Skripals and said there is a need "to shine a light through the fog of lies, half-truths and obfuscation that pours out of their propaganda machine.”
A total of 28 European countries and the U.S. agreed to support the U.K. by expelling diplomats in solidarity following considerable, behind the scenes work by MI5 and its sister agency MI6 following the attack on Skripals.
Russia continues to deny involvement in the poisoning of the Skripals and has reciprocated with tit-for-tat diplomat expulsions.
Parker said, "The reckless attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, using a highly lethal nerve agent, put numerous lives at risk, including that of his daughter. It was only through near-miraculous medical intervention that his and his daughter's lives were saved, and wider preventive action was able to be taken."
He has also accused the Kremlin of "pursuing an agenda through aggressive and pernicious acts by its military and intelligence services,” adding that Russia risks becoming a "more isolated pariah" if it continues to act in the way it has.
He said that Moscow is using its spies and military to carry out "flagrant breaches of international rules.”
He said, ”One of the Kremlin's central and entirely admirable aims is to build Russian greatness on the world stage. But its repeated choices have been to pursue that aim through aggressive and pernicious actions by its military and intelligence services. Instead of becoming a respected great nation it risks becoming a more isolated pariah.”
Parker said, “European intelligence co-operation today is simply unrecognisable to what it looked like five years ago.”
He even described how the Counter Terrorism Group, which is made up of 30 European domestic intelligence agencies, is the "largest multinational counter-terrorism enterprise in the world" where "real-time intelligence sharing" involves "thousands of exchanges on advanced secure networks every week.”
The British spy chief also addressed the ongoing threat from Islamist-inspired terrorism and warned that "Daesh still aspires to direct devastating and more complex attacks,” despite territorial losses, citing the 45 attacks across Europe since 2016.
The intelligence chief also disclosed that MI5 has thwarted 12 plots alongside police since the Westminster atrocity in March 2017.
He said this brought the total number of disrupted attacks since 2013 to 25.
He said, “Whilst Daesh has now lost its false caliphate in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, tackling the group as a movement will require sustained international focus for years to come. As I speak today, they are seeking to regroup, and the threat seems likely to persist."
Parker added that he is "confident about our ability to tackle these threats, because of the strength and resilience of our democratic systems, the resilience of our societies and the values we share with our European partners.”
In response to the speech, the Russian embassy tweeted a newspaper article highlighting Parker's "fog of lies" line and said, "By the way, it's Britain that is notorious for fogs."