Russia’s ambassador to London has dismissed claims of Russian election interference efforts, cyber attacks and espionage against the UK contained in a new report as “much ado about nothing”.
Andrey Kelin denied that the Kremlin tried to interfere in the Brexit referendum and refuted allegations it meddled with Scotland’s independence vote, saying such action was not in Moscow’s interests.
The senior diplomat rejected claims that the UK is a top Russian intelligence target, saying that the Intelligence and Security Committee’s assessment greatly exaggerated the UK’s significance to Russia.
He also again pushed back on a long-held allegation by the UK that Russia was behind the attempted assassination of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
Ultimately, he said that Moscow wanted friendly relations with the UK and other western allies.
“My first impression is that the Shakespeare phrase is very much applicable – it is much ado about nothing,” Mr Kelin told Sky News when asked for his response to the Russia report.
“The report is called Russia but if you will put any other country’s name [at the front of the report] it would be the same because this report is not about Russia – it is about the internal relationships of agencies within the UK.”
The ambassador disagreed with analysis in the report that Russia’s foreign policy is a zero-sum game that sees any action it carries out that damages the West as a positive.
He was similarly indignant about any suggestion Russia meddled in the EU referendum, saying he saw the report attacking Moscow as a convenient distraction to the UK’s multiple other challenges, including China.
Russia is accused of using disinformation to amplify divisions and weaken western alliances.
Asked whether Moscow used this tactic to interfere with the Brexit vote, Mr Kelin said: “We have no means to amplify anything. For the division, division is bad, amplifying it is also bad.
“We didn’t do anything which might amplify division because it’s not in our interests.”