Johnson insists Government 'leads the world' in caution about Russian activity

Johnson insists Government 'leads the world' in caution about Russian activity

Johnson insists Government 'leads the world' in caution about Russian activity

Labour party MP Nick Thomas-Symonds said the report showed the government "took a conscious decision not to look at all" at Russian interference.

Speaking at the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, hours after a heavily redacted report by Westminster's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) was published, Nicola Sturgeon said governments should not be "complacent" about the possibility of interference in democratic processes.

Amid growing tensions with China, he said the report "should also sound alarm bells ringing that other countries that wish the United Kingdom harm are undertaking similar activities and are not facing a sufficiently robust response".

It said there were open source indications Russian Federation sought to influence the Brexit campaign but that the British government had not sought deep evidence of meddling.

That could further fuel claims from Johnson's opponents about a lack of political will at the heart of government to reveal the extent of Russian involvement and influence in Britain.

"No one in government knew if Russian Federation interfered in or sought to influence the referendum because they did not want to know". Every British daily covering the report repeats pretty much the same line, that having failed to act on Russian threats, Johnson should now join the offensive against Russia, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been barking orders to him on how he should deal with China, a message he repeated again today in his visit to London.

He told reporters: "The report reveals that no one in government knew if Russian Federation interfered in or sought to influence the referendum, because they did not want to know".

He said there was "no country in the Western world that is more vigilant in protecting the interests of this country or the global community from Russian interference". It's already changed the course of British history, and the person who was front and center - that was a guy named Boris Johnson, who is now the prime minister.

On the hot topic of Brexit, the report said: "There have been widespread allegations that Russian Federation sought to influence voters in the 2016 referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union: studies have pointed to the preponderance of pro-Brexit or anti-EU stories on [Russian news outlets] RT and Sputnik, and the use of "bots" and "trolls", as evidence". Many Russians with close links to Vladimir Putin have been accepted into the country due to their wealth, and integrated into the "business and social scene".

The report said there was "credible open source commentary" suggesting Russian Federation tried to influence campaigns in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. "Russia is a top national security priority".

Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, played down the report's significance, saying: "It was no sensation".

The report was originally submitted to Johnson on October 17. The National Crime Agency said in September that it found no evidence of criminal offenses related to the donation.

"There is an army of people in the financial industry, in the property sector as well, who have served as intermediaries helping Russian money find safe places here, helping in other ways Russians to prosper here at the same time as the Russian state is presenting a growing threat to Britain", he said.

Ed Davey, acting leader of the staunchly anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats party, said in a statement: "Boris Johnson refusing to launch an inquiry into Russian election interference is a green light for them to do it in the future".

She also slammed the report as "Russophobia".

A spokesman for Johnson said the government would be bringing forward legislation "to counter hostile state activity" in what the prime minister had described as an espionage act.

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