Boris Johnson is under pressure to publish a government investigation into Russian interference in recent UK elections.
According to The Guardian, the Scottish National Party’s Commons leader Ian Blackford has written to the prime minister urging him to “begin appointing members of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee” (ISC) – a move necessary to allow the controversial document to be released.
But what exactly is in the Russia report and why is it so controversial?
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Who wrote the report?
The review was initially written by the ISC, and was then sent to the prime minister for approval on 17 October, according to the cross-party group’s chair at the time, the then Conservative MP Dominic Grieve. It is based on analysis from Britain’s intelligence agencies and third-party experts including former MI6 officer Christopher Steele.
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What does it say?
The ISC was examining allegations of Russian activity aimed at the UK, including during the 2016 referendum on EU membership, when Johnson was a leading campaigner for Leave. Moscow has denied such claims.
Reuters says the report “concluded Russian interference may have had an impact on the Brexit referendum” but that the effect was “unquantifiable”.
According to The Sunday Times, the report names nine Russian oligarchs and business people who have donated money to the Conservative Party, including Alexander Temerko, who formerly worked for the Kremlin’s Defence Ministry. Temerko reportedly gifted more than £1.2m to the party and has described Johnson as a “friend”.
Major Tory donor Lubov Chernukhin, wife of former Putin ally Vladimir Chernukhin, is also said to be mentioned in the report.
“She paid £160,000 in return for a tennis match with Johnson and has donated more than £450,000 in the last year alone,” The Sunday Times reported last November.
Why hasn’t it been published yet?
Opponents of the Government have accused Downing Street of sitting on the report “because it might contain embarrassing revelations” about Johnson and his party, says Reuters.
PoliticsHome adds that Britain’s intelligence agencies are reportedly “furious” at the delay. Even former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has described the UK government’s handling of the matter as “shameful” and “inexplicable”, claiming the public “deserve to know what is in that report”.
Downing Street has denied suppressing the report, and said it was checking for any classified information it might contain when the election was called last year. No. 10 has since cleared the report but is delaying its release until the new ISC has been appointed, “a task that falls to Johnson after consulting with other parties”, says the Guardian.
In his letter to the PM, the SNP’s Blackford says: “It is unacceptable that your government has repeatedly and intentionally failed to take steps to establish the committee and has sought to escape scrutiny on vital issues. The public interest and the imperative is and has always been clear: lift your sanction on publishing this report and re-establish the Intelligence and Security Committee so that it can be immediately published.”
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