UK ministers told to drop ‘no successful examples’ of Russian interference line

New approach is first admission that Russia may have hampered UK elections

(Image credit: Alexey Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Ministers have been told to no longer claim there have been “no successful examples” of Russian interference in UK elections.

Cabinet Office sources confirmed that the position has been quietly changed while an investigation into alleged hacking concludes.

The Observer reports that the subtle change-of-tack marks the first official admission that the Kremlin’s efforts to distort Britain’s political processes could have been successful.

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The ongoing investigation concerns the apparent hacking of an NHS dossier seized on by Labour during the last election campaign. The hacked NHS emails were spread online via Reddit, under the title “Great Britain is practically standing on her knees working on a trade agreement with the US”.

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Labour MP Stephen Kinnock said: “From the hacking of NHS emails to the St. Petersburg troll factories and bot farms, it’s clear that the Kremlin is pursuing a deliberate strategy of online disinformation and manipulation that is undermining our democracy.”

Boris Johnson remains under ongoing pressure to publish a government investigation into Russian interference in recent UK elections.

The review was initially written by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, before being sent to the prime minister in October 2019, according to then-Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, the cross-party group’s chair at the time.

It is based on analysis from Britain’s intelligence agencies and third-party experts including former MI6 officer Christopher Steele. Steele was the author of the infamous dossier claiming Russia had a file of compromising information on US President Donald Trump.

Reuters says the report “concluded Russian interference may have had an impact on the Brexit referendum”, but added that the effect was “unquantifiable”.

According to The Sunday Times, the report also names nine Russian oligarchs and business people who have donated money to the Conservative Party.

These include Alexander Temerko, who formerly worked for the Kremlin’s Defence Ministry. Temerko has reportedly gifted more than £1.2m to the party and has described the prime minister as a “friend”.

Opponents of the government have accused Downing Street of sitting on the report “because it might contain embarrassing revelations” about Johnson and his party.

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