Russia is seeking to undermine European democracies and sow doubt in the West through malign activities and a "fog of lies," the head of Britain's domestic spy agency has told European intelligence chiefs.
In a May 14 address in Berlin, MI5 chief Andrew Parker said that Russia was carrying out "aggressive and pernicious actions" and risks becoming an "isolated pariah."
Parker's address to the gathering hosted by Germany's BfV domestic intelligence service was the first public speech outside Britain by a serving head of the agency.
Parker said that a March nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a "deliberate and targeted malign activity" on British soil, and one of Moscow's "flagrant breaches of international rules."
London has blamed Moscow for the poisoning of Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence operative who became an informant for Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, in the first use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II.
Skripal and his daughter were both found unconscious on a bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the accusation that it was behind the attack.
Parker also condemned what he called a disinformation campaign mounted by Russia following the attack.
He said there was a need "to shine a light through the fog of lies, half-truths, and obfuscation that pours out of their propaganda machine."
Skripal, 66, remains in the hospital. His daughter Yulia, 33, and a British police officer injured in the attack have both been discharged from hospital, while an investigation to identify the culprits is under way.
Parker also thanked the international community for its joint response to the incident, with 18 out of 28 European countries agreeing to support Britain in expelling scores of Russian diplomats.
The MI5 chief also said that the Russian occupation and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula cannot be acceptable and neither is meddling in Western elections.
Parker also stressed the importance of post-Brexit security ties, warning that Europe faces an intense and unrelenting terrorist threat.
The extremist group Islamic State is plotting "devastating and more complex attacks," Parker said.
"The security challenges we are facing are stark, but we will counter them together," he concluded.