UK spy agencies took their “eye off the ball” over the Russian government
A long-awaited report from parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) found Vladimir Putin’s administration has been engaged in “hostile foreign interference”.
It criticized the “illogical” approach by MI5 not to fully investigate how much Moscow tried to influence the Brexit referendum because of an “extreme caution” of being seen to interfere in “democratic processes”.
The report also claimed the government made no effort to investigate Russian interference in the EU referendum.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called the report “Russophobia”.
No 10 said the government was “fully aware of the significant and enduring threat” Russia posed. The ISC’s inquiry covers a number of topics, including disinformation campaigns, cyber tactics, and Russian expatriates in the UK.
Much of the “highly sensitive” detail was not published due to fears Russia could use the evidence to threaten the UK.
Ministers “did not want to know” and “actively avoided looking for evidence”, one of the committee members, MP Stewart Hosie, added in a news conference.
Uk Governments avoided as a matter of no fact
The report also called the Official Secrets Act “out of date”, urging the government to pass new laws to curb espionage and “illicit financial dealings” by some of the “Russian elite”.
“In brief, Russian influence in the UK is ‘the new normal’, and there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene and accepted because of their wealth,” the document released on Tuesday said.
“This level of integration… means that any measures now being taken by the government are not preventative but rather constitute damage limitation.”
“The UK government has actively avoided looking for evidence that Russia interfere.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab later told a press conference the government ‘categorically rejected’ the claim, saying it was “the comment of one MP” on the committee.
The government also rejected the committee’s call for a full assessment by intelligence agencies of potential Russian meddling in the 2016 referendum, saying it had “seen no evidence of successful interference”.
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