Britain accuses Russia of seeking to interfere in general election

The British government has accused “Russian actors” of seeking to interfere in the country's last general election. A parliamentary committee has confirmed it will publish within days a long-awaited report into previous allegations of interference from Moscow.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a written statement to MPs that it is “almost certain” that as yet unnamed individuals “sought to interfere” in the December 2019 election by amplifying online “illicitly acquired and leaked government documents.” Raab also said there was an “ongoing criminal investigation” into how the documents were obtained.

The documents, relating to U.K.-U.S. trade talks, were used by the now discredited leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, to back up his claims that the Conservative government was preparing to “sell off” the National Health Service.

The papers were believed to have appeared online some months earlier but gained little traction until picked up by the Labour campaign and highlighted at a news conference in November. After they were revealed, online discussion site Reddit said its own investigation linked their appearance to a previous Russian disinformation campaign.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova slammed Raab’s statement as “vague and contradictory” and called on the U.K. to “produce facts” supporting the allegations.

The U.K. also joined the United States and Canada on Thursday in accusing Russia of trying to steal information from researchers seeking a coronavirus vaccine. Russia rejected these accusations.

Raab’s statement on the alleged election interference came as the newly installed Intelligence and Security Committee in Parliament said it would release the report on previous allegations of Russian interference before Parliament’s summer break starts next week. The committee has a wide-ranging and largely secretive role overseeing the U.K.’s intelligence and security services.

It was unable to publish the report since it was compiled last year after Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to clear it for release ahead of the December election. The report needs government approval before it can be made public.

Johnson is still haunted by unanswered questions about the unpublished report, especially over what it says about any Russian involvement in the 2016 Brexit campaign, which saw Britain vote to leave the EU.

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