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Britain warns: Do not underestimate Russian spies

A still image taken from a video footage and released by RT international news channel on September 13, 2018, shows two Russian men with the same names, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, as those accused by Britain over the case of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, during an interview at an unidentified location, Russia. RT/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Recent failings by Russian military intelligence (GRU) have made it easy to laugh at its spies but the West should not underestimate the skills of the Kremlin’s once mighty espionage services, Britain’s Security Minister said on Tuesday.

The West has accused Russia’s military intelligence agency of running what it described as a global hacking campaign, targeting institutions from sports anti-doping bodies to a nuclear power company and the chemical weapons watchdog.

“It’s easy to laugh at some of the GRU’s poor tradecraft and their ability, but we should not underestimate them, nor indeed the dangerous and reckless use of nerve agent on our streets,” the minister, Ben Wallace, told a security conference.

“We shouldn’t also forget that there was a gigantic effort made by our police and MI5 to spot them in the first place, track their movements and also ... the huge effort that went in to develop the intelligence that helped guide us to the door of the GRU itself.”

Reporting by Michael Holden, Editing by William Maclean