Russia Categorically Denies Meddling in UK Elections, Warns of Negative Consequences for Relations
09:51 GMT 17.07.2020(updated 11:00 GMT 17.07.2020)
On Thursday, London hurled a string of accusations at Moscow, accusing it of trying to interfere in the UK's 2019 general election, and of using hackers to try to steal British coronavirus vaccine research. The same day, a parliamentary intelligence committee promised to release a report on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Russia categorically rejects any claims about its alleged attempts to interfere in the elections of any country, including the UK, and warns that there will be "negative" consequences for bilateral relations between Moscow and London, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said.
"We consistently and categorically deny any possible involvement of Russia in interference in the elections of any country, including those of the UK. And we categorically reject any accusations regarding the 2019 elections in the UK," the spokesman said, speaking to reporters on Friday.
Peskov warned that "of course," London's latest claims "will negatively affect bilateral Russian-British relations. But it should be admitted that the British side can hardly do anything that would further aggravate the current state of bilateral relations."
On Thursday, just hours after a parliamentary intelligence committee promised that it would soon release a report on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2017 general election, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced that certain unnamed "Russian actors" 'almost certainly' tried to interfere in the December 2019 UK general election by leaking secret documents on a planned UK-US trade deal to Reddit.
The same day, Raab and Britain's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) accused 'Moscow-linked cyber actors' of trying to steal British coronavirus vaccine research, an allegation which Russia immediately denied.
In his comments Friday, Peskov reiterated that Moscow "does not accept these accusations."
"We don't know who tried to hack the UK and what they were trying to hack, but Russia certainly had nothing to do with it. We ourselves constantly encounter similar attempts to carry out cybercrimes in relation to the computer databases of our institutions. Our institutions consistently defeat these attacks. This is a common problem, but we categorically disagree with the baseless allegations made against us," the spokesman said.
Asked specifically about whether the 'Cozy Bear' hacker group is connected with Russian intelligence, as claimed by the NCSC, Peskov said "we do not know what this group is and to whom it belongs."
On Thursday, the Russian Embassy in London dismissed the NCSC's coronavirus vaccine hacking claims as "propaganda," and said that the Russian side's previous attempts to establish contacts between UK cybersecurity officials and Russia's FSB-affiliated National Computer Incident Coordination Centre had been rebuffed.
Back and Forth 'Meddling' Claims
In his remarks Thursday, Foreign Secretary Raab pointed to an alleged Russian campaign to 'amplify online' illicitly acquired and leaked government documents on UK-US trade negotiations, citing the dissemination of a government report on Reddit which suggested that the state might sell off part of the National Health Service to US companies. During the 2019 election campaign, then-Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn publicized the report and used it to attack the Tories and the Johnson government. The prime minister and his allies dismissed Corbyn's claims as "pure Bermuda Triangle"-style conspiracy theories, while the Labour politician insisted that the document and its revelations were "real."
In a separate development, the UK parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee has promised to release a report on alleged 'Russian influence' operations during the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2017 general election in the coming days. The Johnson government's domestic critics have accused No 10 of deliberately delaying the publication of that report for months due to alleged embarrassing revelations for the Conservative Party. It remains unclear what if any new allegations the Committee's report will contain, although previous claims about a 'Russian social media influence campaign' on Facebook and Twitter were dismissed by both companies following lengthy internal investigations.
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