‘UK failed to probe Russian role in polls’

MOSCOW, Dec. 20, 2018 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at his annual press conference in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 20, 2018. (Xinhua/Bai Xueqi/IANS) by .
Russian President Vladimir Putin

The UK government’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) revealed in a report on Tuesday that Russia sees the country as one of its “top targets” in the West.

The London-based ISC’s inquiry covers a number of topics, including disinformation campaigns, cyber tactics and Russian expatriates in the UK, the BBC reported.

But much of the “highly sensitive” detail will not be published due to fears Russia could use the evidence to threaten the UK.

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The long-awaited report said Russian influence in the UK was “the new normal”, and accused successive governments of welcoming the country’s oligarchs “with open arms”.

It said the UK was “clearly a target” for disinformation campaigns around its elections and called for an “immediate action” to help intelligence services tackle “this very capable adversary”.

It said the UK government 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”.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the House of Commons in London. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/Handout via Xinhua) HOC MANDATORY CREDIT: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

The committee also criticised No 10 for delaying the report’s publication.

The Downing Street was accused of holding back its release ahead of December’s UK election – which it has denied.

But speaking at a press conference to launch the report, one of the ISC’s committee members, Kevan Jones, criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson for not signing it off sooner, saying there was “no reason for delay”.

Another ISC committee member, Stewart Hosie said no one in government wanted to touch the issue of Russian interference with a “10-foot pole” and no one knew if Moscow had tried to interfere with the 2016 referendum “because they did not want to know”.

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