Russia spied on Skripal and daughter for at least 5 years

LONDON, April 13 (Reuters) - Russia's intelligence agencies spied on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia for at least five years before they were attacked with a nerve agent in March, the national security adviser to Britain's prime minister said.

Mark Sedwill said in a letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday that email accounts of Yulia had been targeted in 2013 by cyber specialists from Russia's GRU military intelligence service.

Sedwill also said in the letter, which was published by the government, that it was "highly likely that the Russian intelligence services view at least some of its defectors as legitimate targets for assassination."

The Skripals were targeted by what London says was a nerve agent attack that left both of them critically ill for weeks. British Prime Minister Theresa May has said it is highly likely that Moscow was behind the attack.

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MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 6, 2018: Pictured in this file image dated August 9, 2006, is retired colonel Sergei Skripal during a hearing at the Moscow District Court. File image/Press Office of Moscow District Military Court/TASS (Photo by TASS\TASS via Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: A forensic tent stands over a bench where a man and a women had been found unconcious the previous day, on March 5, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 6, 2018: Pictured in this file image dated August 9, 2006, is retired colonel Sergei Skripal during a hearing at the Moscow District Court. File image/Press Office of Moscow District Military Court/TASS (Photo by TASS\TASS via Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: A forensic tent stands over a bench where a man and a women had been found unconcious the previous day, on March 5, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: A forensic tent stands over a bench where a man and woman had been found unconscious the previous day, on March 5, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: A forensic tent stands over a bench where a man and woman had been found unconscious the previous day, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: A general view inside Zizzi Restaurant in town centre, where a man and woman had been found unconscious two days previosly, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: Police officers man a cordon near a forensic tent (not pictured) where a man and woman had been found unconscious two days previosly, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: A man walks past Zizzi Restaurant in town centre, where a man and woman had been found unconscious two days previosly, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: A journalist shows CCTV footage on a mobile phone showing a man and woman who were later found unconscious, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: Police officers stand outside the home of Sergei Skripal after a man and woman were found unconscious in Salisbury town centre two days previously, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A police officer stands on duty after former Russian inteligence officer Sergei Skripal, and a woman were found unconscious on a bench nearby after they had been exposed to an unknown substance, in Salisbury, Britain, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Police officers stand at crime scene tape, as a tent covers a park bench on which former Russian inteligence officer Sergei Skripal, and a woman were found unconscious after they had been exposed to an unknown substance, in Salisbury, Britain, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A police car is parked next to crime scene tape, as a tent covers a park bench on which former Russian inteligence officer Sergei Skripal, and a woman were found unconscious after they had been exposed to an unknown substance, in Salisbury, Britain, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: A police officer stands outside The Mill pub after a man and woman had been found unconscious nearby two days previously, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Police officers stand next to a squad car next to crime scene tape, as a tent covers a park bench on which former Russian inteligence officer Sergei Skripal, and a woman were found unconscious after they had been exposed to an unknown substance, in Salisbury, Britain, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Police officers stand at crime scene tape, as a tent covers a park bench on which former Russian inteligence officer Sergei Skripal, and a woman were found unconscious after they had been exposed to an unknown substance, in Salisbury, Britain, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted on Friday that a report this week by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did not confirm the origin of the poison used against the Skripals.

Lavrov said the report only confirmed the composition of the substance and that Britain's claim that it confirmed the UK position on the Skripal case was overstated.

Separately on Friday, Russia's ambassador to Britain said he was concerned the British government was trying to get rid of evidence related to the case.

"We get the impression that the British government is deliberately pursuing the policy of destroying all possible evidence, classifying all remaining materials and making an independent and transparent investigation impossible," Alexander Yakovenko told reporters.

He also said Russia could not be sure about the authenticity of a statement issued by Yulia Skripal on Wednesday in which she declined the offer of help from the Russian embassy. (Reporting by Kate Holton Writing by William Schomberg and Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Stephen Addison)

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