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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain Calls Russian Spies a Big Distraction

LONDON -- Russian spying against Britain remains at Cold War levels, diverting intelligence resources that would be better devoted to fighting al-Qaida, the head of the MI5 intelligence agency said Monday.

Jonathan Evans said espionage by Russia, China and other countries was a distraction from countering militant Islamists who were growing in number and now targeting children as young as 15 in Britain. "Since the end of the Cold War, we have seen no decrease in the numbers of undeclared Russian intelligence officers in the U.K. -- at the Russian Embassy and associated organizations conducting covert activity in this country," Evans said.

"So despite the Cold War ending nearly two decades ago, my service is still expending resources to defend the U.K. against unreconstructed attempts by Russia, China and others to spy on us," he added in his first public speech since taking over as head of MI5, the domestic spy agency, in April.

His singling out of Russia underlined poor relations between the two countries and their security agencies. Each expelled four diplomats in July in a dispute over Moscow's refusal to extradite a suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. The two sides have suspended cooperation on counterterrorism.