Russian groups sought to interfere in general election, says government

UK

Russian groups sought to interfere in last year’s general election through the promotion of leaked documents on a potential US-UK trade deal, the government has found.

In a written statement to parliament, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab revealed there is an ongoing criminal investigation into the issue.

He vowed the UK would “continue to call out and respond to malign activity, including any attempts to interfere in our democratic processes” and suggested the government could “respond with appropriate measures in the future”.

Leaked documents on a potential US-UK trade deal became a major debating point in last year’s general election campaign.

Then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used the official papers as evidence the NHS would be “on the table” in talks on a post-Brexit trade deal with America.

The documents were found on website Reddit, which said at the time it believed the leak was “part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia”.

But Labour did not, at the time, comment on how it obtained the leaked documents.

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In his statement on Thursday, Mr Raab said: “On the basis of extensive analysis, the government has concluded that it is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 general election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked government documents.

“Sensitive government documents relating to the UK-US Free Trade Agreement were illicitly acquired before the 2019 general election and disseminated online via the social media platform Reddit.

“When these gained no traction, further attempts were made to promote the illicitly acquired material online in the run up to the general election.

“Whilst there is no evidence of a broad spectrum Russian campaign against the general election, any attempt to interfere in our democratic processes is completely unacceptable.

“It is, and will always be, an absolute priority to protect our democracy and elections.”

It comes ahead of the publication of a long-awaited report into alleged Russian interference in UK politics, which will be released within the next week.

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