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Russia report claims Moscow meddled in Scottish independence vote

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Russia may have meddled in both the Scottish independence and Brexit referendums, a highly-anticipated report into allegations of Russian interference in British democracy is set to reveal.

The suppressed report – the product of an 18 month-long investigation conducted by parliament’s cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee – is set to be published this week.

The document could reignite fears that Russia intervened in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

But some have dubbed it an attempt to ‘sabotage’ Britain’s decision to leave the EU as it is impossible to say for certain whether Russia had any impact on the vote at all.

Founder of campaign group Leave.EU Arron Banks has launched a legal bid to delay publication of the report so that he has a chance to reply. 

Russia may have meddled in both the Scottish independence and Brexit referendums, a highly-anticipated report into allegations of Russian interference in British democracy is set to reveal. Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russia may have meddled in both the Scottish independence and Brexit referendums, a highly-anticipated report into allegations of Russian interference in British democracy is set to reveal. Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russia may have meddled in both the Scottish independence and Brexit referendums, a highly-anticipated report into allegations of Russian interference in British democracy is set to reveal. Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin

The so-called ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ has been accused of hiding the ‘true source’ of £8million in loans linked to the campaign group. The National Crime Agency (NCA) said it has found ‘no evidence that any criminal offences have been committed’.

Some alleged that this was Russian money put forward to influence the Brexit referendum – claims Banks said were ‘b******s’.

He said: ‘Russian interference in Brexit has become a mythical mantra for hardcore Remainers as they sought to try to discredit the result in any way they could.

‘We are living in an age where political opponents are not prepared to accept defeat at the ballot box and use other methods.’

MP Andrew Bridgen told the Sunday Express: ‘Too often we have seen that Remainers cannot accept defeat and have repeatedly used any means possible to attempt to undermine and discredit the result.’ 

Founder of campaign group Leave.EU Arron Banks (pictured) has launched a legal bid to delay publication of the report so that he has a chance to reply

Founder of campaign group Leave.EU Arron Banks (pictured) has launched a legal bid to delay publication of the report so that he has a chance to reply

Founder of campaign group Leave.EU Arron Banks (pictured) has launched a legal bid to delay publication of the report so that he has a chance to reply

US-UK trade paper leak: The latest accusation of attempts to destabilise the West levelled at Russia 

Over the last decade Russia has faced a number of accusations of state-backed attempts to destabilise neighbouring countries and the West.

Russia has in the past been accused of attempting to meddle in the politics of Moldova, between Ukraine and Romania, by backing political candidates favourable to the east – despite calls from politicians to favour a more West and NATO-friendly approach.

Russia was also linked to a failed coup in Montenegro in 2016.

Those accused of plotting the coup included leaders of the Montenegrin opposition and two Russian nationals, Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov – who fled the country and were jailed ‘in their absence’. Russia denied any involvement.

In 2019 Bulgarian prosecutors charged three Russians in their absence with the attempted murder of three Bulgarian arms dealers by poisoning.

The poisoning was being investigated for possible links with the 2018 nerve-agent attack on the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the UK. 

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The report is also set to raise concerns about potential interference in Scottish politics, The Sunday Times reports. 

In 2016 – before the Brexit referendum –  the Exchange Tower in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle became the UK headquarters of Sputnik, the Russian state news agency paid for by Vladimir Putin.

It broadcast UK-wide radio shows and was dubbed a ‘Kremlin stooge’ by an MSP.

And Alex Salmond – the former Scottish First Minister – was widely criticised for taking a job with Putin’s ‘propaganda’ channel, RT on its English-language service. 

It follows allegations that leaked documents on US-UK trade talks were ‘amplified’ online by Russia during the 2019 election to help Jeremy Corbyn win. 

The then-Labour leader brandished a 451-page dossier at press conferences saying they proved the NHS was ‘for sale’ in a post-Brexit trade deal. 

While Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab very carefully stopped short of pinning the blame on the Russian state and Vladimir Putin directly, he insisted ‘Russian actors’ were involved in ensuring the documents came to light. 

The Russian embassy in London said it ‘will never interfere’ in internal affairs in the UK and said the allegations are ‘foggy and contradictory’. 

Labour said it condemned ‘any attempt by Russia, or any foreign power, to interfere in our country’s democratic processes’. ‘Labour stands ready to work cross-party to protect our nation’s security,’ a spokeswoman said. 

Raab today said the UK will ensure the world knows the nature of the ‘reprehensible behaviour’ that Russia is engaged in following accusations that Russia’s intelligence services tried to steal details of research into coronavirus vaccines.

Russia’s ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin rejected the claims and said there was ‘no sense’ in the allegations made by Britain, the United States and Canada.

Speaking of Raab’s allegations of interference in the 2019 election, Kelin said: ‘We do not interfere at all.

‘We do not see any point in interference because, for us whether it would be Conservative party of the Labour party at the head of this government we will try to settle relations and establish better relations.’

Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Mr Raab said it was ‘outrageous and reprehensible’ that the Russian government is engaged in such activity.

The report is also set to raise concerns about potential interference in Scottish politics. Pictured: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The report is also set to raise concerns about potential interference in Scottish politics. Pictured: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The report is also set to raise concerns about potential interference in Scottish politics. Pictured: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

He said: ‘We’re absolutely confident that the Russian intelligence agencies were engaged in a cyber attack on research and development efforts and organisations in this country and internationally with a view either to sabotage or to profit from the R&D that was taking place.

‘And I think the point is, first of all we’ve seen this as part of a wider systematic approach to cyber taken by Russia, and at the time that the world is coming together to try and tackle Covid-19, particularly come up with a global solution for a vaccine, I think it’s outrageous and reprehensible that the Russian government is engaged in this activity.

‘So what we’re doing with our allies is making sure people know, making sure the organisations know so that they can better defend against it, but also just calling Russia out, we will do this.

‘Now you will see us holding Russia to account and making sure that the world knows the nature of the reprehensible behaviour that they’re engaged in.’

It follows allegations that leaked documents on US-UK trade talks were 'amplified' online by Russia during the 2019 election to help Jeremy Corbyn win. Pictured: The papers were brandished by the then-Labour leader Corbyn during the campaign last year

It follows allegations that leaked documents on US-UK trade talks were 'amplified' online by Russia during the 2019 election to help Jeremy Corbyn win. Pictured: The papers were brandished by the then-Labour leader Corbyn during the campaign last year

It follows allegations that leaked documents on US-UK trade talks were ‘amplified’ online by Russia during the 2019 election to help Jeremy Corbyn win. Pictured: The papers were brandished by the then-Labour leader Corbyn during the campaign last year

How a leaked trade deal dossier ended up in Jeremy Corbyn’s hands: A timeline of events 

October 21, 2019: Leaked documents marked ‘Official Sensitive’ are leaked on Reddit by a user Gregoratior under the headline: ‘Great Britain is practically standing on her knees working on a trade agreement with the US’.

It includes claims that the UK was preparing to reject EU sanitary and phytosanitary standards, allowing for chlorinated chicken from the US to be sold in the UK.

Early November 2019: Despite the explosive leak, little attention is brought to the documents. 

November 27, 2019: As the election approaches, Labour hastily calls a press conference in which leader Jeremy Corbyn reveals a 451 page document which he says confirms that NHS services would be on the table as part of UK/USA trade negotiations.

December 6, 2019: Reddit confirms that a leak of official US-UK trade documents that took place on its platform was the work of Russian operatives and was part of a long-running campaign of political influence. The site said it had suspended 61 accounts that were part of a co-ordinated effort.

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Mr Raab added: ‘As a leading member of the international community, a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia should be engaged in that collaborative international effort.’

Also speaking on the programme, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said that Labour ‘got it wrong’ on Russia, having ‘prevaricated’ after the Salisbury attack in which former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned.

Following the May 2018 incident, then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was criticised for not condemning Russia more firmly over its actions.

Ms Nandy told Sophy Ridge On Sunday: ‘I think we got it wrong on Russia and I made a feature of this during the Labour leadership campaign because I felt that it really needed to be said.

‘When the Salisbury attacks happened, we prevaricated, we equivocated, we called for dialogue at a moment when chemical weapons had been used on the streets of the UK.

‘And what that did was not only to let an authoritarian regime that has invaded its neighbours, that has interfered in elections across European democratic countries over several years, that has had an appalling record of human rights against its own people, against LGBT people, Muslims and other minorities, and used chemical weapons on the streets of the UK, we didn’t just let them off the hook, we also let the Conservative Government off the hook.

‘Because I believe the Conservatives have been desperately slow to wake up to the threat that is posed by the current Putin administration and we should have been much quicker to act in relation to that.’

Ms Nandy added: ‘By prevaricating about issues like Salisbury, we let the Tories off the hook. I strongly believe that that has to change and that we have to have a much more strategic approach to Russia.’  

Russia and the UK’s tempestuous relationship: How a once successful friendship between the two-time world war allies has soured

Despite a strained and suspicious relationship of late, the UK and Russia have often appeared on the same side when it comes to war.

They allied to fight Napoleon in the early 1800s and wrestle back control of Europe from the French empire, which at one point stretched across most of the continent.

But as Russia’s influence grew in the 1800s, relationships began to sour with the British Empire, leading to the bloody Crimean War in the late 19th century.

Britain and Russia allied to fight Napoleon in the early 1800s and wrestle back control of Europe from the French empire, which at one point stretched across most of the continent

Britain and Russia allied to fight Napoleon in the early 1800s and wrestle back control of Europe from the French empire, which at one point stretched across most of the continent

Britain and Russia allied to fight Napoleon in the early 1800s and wrestle back control of Europe from the French empire, which at one point stretched across most of the continent

They settled their differences in the early 1900’s to twice repel Germany in the First and Second World War.

But as the USSR grew into a competing global superpower of Britain’s long-standing ally, the US, after the Second World War, tensions mounted.

During the Cold War the suspicion was fuelled by a raft of espionage and counter-espionage missions. 

In recent years however the relationship has become increasingly strained, with the first major flash-point in 2006 with the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London.

Former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 in 2006

Former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 in 2006

Former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 in 2006

The former KGB agent fled to the UK after making critical statements about Russia – and continued to do so while based in England.

He was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210, which was believed to have been sprayed into a cup of tea. Litvinenko died in hospital three weeks later.

An investigation was conducted and it was found the polonium could be traced to a Russian nuclear power plant, while an inquiry in 2016 found the actions were likely to have been approved by top Russian officials, including Vladamir Putin

Relations soured again when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 – despite widespread condemnation from the West.

And they reached an all-time low in 2018 with the poisoning of retired spy Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer who had acted as a double agent for the UK’s intelligence services.

His daughter he and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury with deadly nerve agent Novichok, believed to have been administered by two Russian agents – both who deny any involvement. Russia also denied any involvement.

In a now-famous moment, then-Prime Minister Theresa May confronted Putin over the poisoning, which she described as a 'truly despicable act' during a frosty meeting between the two leaders at a G-20 summit in 2018

In a now-famous moment, then-Prime Minister Theresa May confronted Putin over the poisoning, which she described as a 'truly despicable act' during a frosty meeting between the two leaders at a G-20 summit in 2018

In a now-famous moment, then-Prime Minister Theresa May confronted Putin over the poisoning, which she described as a ‘truly despicable act’ during a frosty meeting between the two leaders at a G-20 summit in 2018

Though both Skripals survived the assassination attempt, a woman named Dawn Sturgess died after inadvertently spraying the nerve agent on herself after being given a fake perfume bottle – believed to have been carelessly discarded by the Skripal attackers.

Then-Prime Minister Theresa May confronted Putin over the poisoning, which she described as a ‘truly despicable act’ during a frosty meeting between the two leaders at a G-20 summit.

Following the Salisbury poisoning, there were calls by MPs for England to boycott the World Cup in Russia in 2018, while Three Lions fans were warned about potential backlash by Russian ‘ultras’.

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