According to long-awaited report issued by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, the UK government was slow to detect and to react on Russian meddling online in democratic process of Brexit referendum. It was convinced that Russian interference put 2016 Brexit at risk.
The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament revealed joint report stating that UK government “belatedly realised the level of threat which Russia could pose in this area” after Russians showed their capacity to obtain access over emails from the Democratic National Committee during 2016 US elections.
It adds that a better assessment in advance would have made U.K. spies wary of Russian meddling in the 2016 referendum on EU membership and given the opportunity to take action to prevent it.
The mentioned report was ready to be presented to the last parliament but Downing Street refused to publish it ahead of the 2019 general election, which let us think the revealed facts would be highly undesirable for Downing street.
The report was further delayed after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was slow to reform the Intelligence and Security Committee waiting for above seven months before naming the new appointees.
Committee member and Scottish National Party MP Stewart Hosie told reporters: “The U.K. government have actively avoided looking for evidence that Russia interfered.” This statement is even more serious as there are some facts which show highly controversial actions of Boris Johnson.
Boris Johnson was on Monday night accused of presiding over a cover-up after it emerged that No 10 refused to make public statement on alleged Russian infiltration in British politics. Downing Street indicated on Monday that it would not allow a 50-page dossier from the Intelligence and Security Committee to be published before the election, so hiding this significant information can be regarded as political move.
Fresh evidence has also emerged of attempts by the Kremlin to infiltrate the Conservatives by a senior Russian diplomat suspected of espionage, who made efforts to establish informal contacts with Tories including Johnson. It can now be revealed that Sergey Nalobin – who once described the future prime minister as “our good friend” – lives in a Moscow apartment block known as the “FSB house” because most part of its residents work for Russian intelligence and enforcement bodies. During his time in the UK, Nalobin went to exclusive Tory fundraising events and met senior Conservatives. In January 2014, he posed for a photograph with Johnson at an event at city hall in London. Nalobin posted it on Twitter, writing in a caption that the then mayor was “our good friend” who said “warm words” about Russians.
Likewise, the drafted report contains some more serious facts that Russian money has flowed into the Conservative party via emigres living in the UK making high-profile donations, though it was constantly denied by Tories’ leaders. Still there are more facts of Russian’s tryouts to establish personal informal contacts with leading UK politics. In 2014, Lubov Chernukhina – the wife of the former Russian deputy finance minister – paid £160,000 to play tennis with Johnson and David Cameron. The match was the star lot at a Conservative summer party auction. Another guest at the 2013 fundraising was Vasily Shestakov, Vladimir Putin’s judo partner. Committee members were also briefed on an apparently successful activity of Conservative Friends of Russia. This unofficial organization held its 2012 launch party in the Russian ambassador’s Kensington garden, with about 250 Russian and British guests present, including Tories who played key role in Brexit referendum success. It is well-known that Kremlin considered Brexit as the instrument to dissolve united Europe, to ruin united position towards sanctions imposed against Russia by the EU. However, despite the fact the sanctions were even strengthened, Russian lobby continued its interference in the domestic affairs of the UK.
The facts presented to the members of Parliament are considerable and no doubts there is need for further careful investigation on the matter of alleged Russian intelligence associates’ activity in the United Kingdom’s affairs.