The British government and intelligence agencies failed to prepare or make a proper assessment of the Kremlin’s efforts to disrupt 2016 Brexi referendum, according to a long-delayed Russian report.
The incriminating conclusion was contained in a 50-page document from the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, which said the current minister turned a blind eye to allegations of Russian interference.
It said the government “had not seen or sought evidence of successful interference in the British democratic process” at the time, and that it explained that no serious efforts had been made to do so.
The committee, which examines the work of British spy agencies, said: “We have not been given a post-referendum assessment of Russian intervention efforts”. That contrasts with the US response.
“This situation is in sharp contrast to the US handling of allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, in which the intelligence community’s assessment was produced within two months of the vote, with unclassified summaries publicly announced.”
The committee members said they could not conclude definitively whether or not the Kremlin had managed to interfere in the referendum which caused Britain to stop European Union because no attempt was made to find out.
“Even if the conclusion of such an assessment is that there is minimal disruption, this will still represent guarantees that help the public that the British democratic process remains relatively safe,” said the report, released on Tuesday.
Compiled by a cross-party committee of parliamentarians and colleagues, the report is the result of an 18-month work involving evidence taken from British spy agents and independent experts. Although the long overdue version was greatly removed, the impetus for his conclusion – that sufficient attention had been given to Russian infiltration in British politics and public life – was clear.
The committee member noted that publicly available research had shown “the dominant pro-Brexit or anti-EU story” on Russia Today and Sputnik TV channel at the time of the vote, and “use of ‘bot’ and ‘troll'” on Twitter, as evidence of Russia’s efforts to influence the process.
There are “credible open source comments” that Russia is carrying out “influence campaigns” related to 2014 Scottish independence referendum, but even so, no attempt was made to see the Kremlin’s threat to British democracy until after the Brexit vote.
It was only after Russia hacked the US Democratic Party’s e-mail in July 2016 that any assessment appeared to have been made – and the document showed that some type of exercise was carried out after the 2017 general election.
“If the relevant sections of the intelligence community carry out the same threat assessment before the referendum, it is inconceivable that they will not reach the same conclusions as Russia’s intentions, which may then lead them to take action to protect the process,” the report added. that.
The official response of the British government said: “We see no evidence of successful interference in the EU referendum,” adding that there was no need to launch an investigation because British spy agents made “regular assessments” of Russian threats.
“Given this long-term approach, a retrospective assessment of the EU referendum is not needed,” he said.
Stewart Hosie, an MP from the Scottish National Party who is one of only two committee members currently compiling the report, condemned the refusal by Boris Johnson and Theresa May to see the Kremlin’s interference after the Brexit vote.
“Nobody wants to test this issue with a 10ft bargepole,” he said, adding that it was “outraged” that the report wasn’t published before the December elections. Downing Street “distracted itself from the ball” at Russia’s threat, MP said, it underestimated the response needed and was still trying to play “catch up”.
Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign minister, said that it was extraordinary the prime minister took “a political decision last October ahead of the general election to block the publication of this important report that systematically cuts through Russia’s threat to British national security”.
Britain has also become “a lucrative destination for Russian oligarchs and their money,” the committee said, concluding that they had become a corrupt force in British public life through their connections.
“Some members of the Russian elite are closely related [Russian president Vladimir] Putin was identified as being involved in charitable and / or political organizations in the UK, which have contributed to political parties, with a public profile that places them to assist in the operation of Russian influence, “the report said, although no individual was named.
He also warned that “it should be noted that some members of the House of Lords have business interests related to Russia, or work directly for large Russian companies connected with the Russian state”. Again no name is quoted.
Consideration should be given to tightening reporting of donations to colleagues, asking them to register external payments of more than £ 100 as required for lawmakers – and the introduction of US style laws to require foreign agents or lobbyists to be registered and monitored.
Marina Litvinenko, whose husband, Alexander, was killed in 2006 in London by the Kremlin assassin, said he was “very pleased” with the report, and his mention of the Russian oligarchy making political contributions.
He said the report showed there was much evidence of threats posed by the Kremlin to Britain. “The government has no reason to be naive. After what happened to my husband in 2006 and Sergei Skripal in 2018 there was no reason. Too many suspicious deaths. “
Ministers have long claimed that “there is no successful example” of Kremlin interference in British politics but left the position last week when Dominic Raab, the foreign minister, blamed “Russian actors” for distributing illegally obtained documents related to US-trade talks Britain finally ended in the hands of former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn during the election campaign.
Committee members complained that when they asked for written evidence from MI5 at the beginning of their investigation of possible interference in the Brexit vote, the domestic spy agency “initially only provided six lines of text”.
The committee accused MI5 of operating with “extreme caution” and said “his attitude was illogical” because the problem was “protection of the processes and mechanisms of hostile state interference, which should fall to our intelligence and security services”.
The report was completed last October, but was occupied by Johnson before the general election and was only declassified and cleared for release by the prime minister in December. That cannot be released until No. 10 has nominated a Conservative member to the committee, even though his candidate for the chair, Chris Grayling, was ambushed by opposition members who voted otherwise for Julian Lewis.
Lewis later revoked the Conservative whip, but the newly independent lawmaker had no regrets when the report was published, accusing Downing Street of politicizing the surveillance of intelligence agents.
“This committee has been experiencing delays and dislocations that have never happened before. this can’t happen again. the sooner normal relations are formed between the government and this committee, the better it is for all parties, “said the committee chairman.
Russian officials angrily protested the conclusion of the report, accusing Britain of taking “a leading role in Russophobia” and claiming it cleared Moscow’s efforts to influence the 2016 Brexit referendum.
“The accusations are again baseless, baseless and unconvincing,” Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian federation council, the legislature, said in a written address on Tuesday. He also said that the report “lifted suspicion towards Russia for Brexit”.
Russia’s foreign ministry also attacked the report shortly after it was released. Maria Zakharova, a ministry spokesman, said, “There is no sensation.” He also called the report “Russophobia.”