21 Jul Russia report: UK ‘badly underestimated’ interference threat from Moscow, says ISC | Politics News
Russia has treated the UK as one of its top interference “targets” – and the government has “badly underestimated” the threat, the security agencies’ watchdog has said.
A long-awaited report from parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) found Vladimir Putin’s administration has been engaged in “hostile foreign interference”.
It criticised the “illogical” approach by MI5 not to fully investigate how much Russia tried to influence the Brexit referendum because of an “extreme caution” of being seen to interfere in “democratic processes”.
And it called the Official Secrets Act “out of date”, urging the government to pass new laws to curb espionage and “illicit financial dealings” by some of the “Russian elite”.
“In brief, Russian influence in the UK is ‘the new normal’, and there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth,” the document released on Tuesday said.
“This level of integration… means that any measures now being taken by the government are not preventative but rather constitute damage limitation.”
The report also described reports of Russia attempting to interfere in the 2014 Scottish independence vote as “credible”.
But it said it was only after a leak of emails in the run up to the US election in 2016 that the UK “belatedly realised the level of threat which Russia could pose in this area”.
And it warned members of the House of Lords with “business interests linked to Russia” that the Kremlin might try to “exploit them”.