LONDON – Agence France-Presse
MI5 chief Andrew Parker said in a landmark speech in Berlin that a March nerve agent attack on Russian nationals Sergei and Yulia Skripal, which also injured a police officer, was a “deliberate and targeted malign activity” on British soil.
Parker, who has a 35-year career in intelligence will say the attack is evidence of Russiapursuing an agenda through “aggressive and pernicious actions” and risks making the country a “more isolated pariah.”
Russia has denied any involvement in the attack and has challenged Britain to reveal evidence to back up its claim that the Russian state was likely behind it.
Parker also condemned Kremlin disinformation following the attack — the first use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II — in his speech before an audience of security chiefs in Berlin.
The need “to shine a light through the fog of lies, half-truths and obfuscation that pours out of their propaganda machine” was set out in his remarks, the first ever made outside Britain by a serving head of MI5.
Skripal, 66, remains in hospital following the attack in the Wiltshire city on March 4. His daughter Yulia, 33, and the British policeman have both been discharged from hospital.
A huge investigation to identify the would-be assassin or assassins is ongoing.
Parker praised the international response to Salisbury, in which 28 European countries agreed to support the U.K. in expelling scores of Russian diplomats.
Also thanking European security agencies for their support in the investigation following the Manchester bombing which claimed 22 lives nearly one year ago, the intelligence chief disclosed that MI5 and police have thwarted 12 plots since the Westminster attack of March 2017 which claimed five lives.
This brings the total number of disrupted attacks since 2013 to 25.
Parker said 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.”
“European intelligence cooperation today is simply unrecognizable to what it looked like five years ago,” he said, adding: “In today’s uncertain world we need that shared strength more than ever.”