A long-awaited report into Russian interference in British politics has concluded that Moscow’s influence is “the new normal”, as senior figures with Kremlin links have access to top business and political leaders.
The report by the Intelligence and Security Committee concludes that successive governments have “welcomed the oligarchs and their money with open arms, providing them with a means of recycling illicit finance through the London ‘laundromat’, and connections at the highest levels with access to UK companies and political figures”.
But the senior MPs and peers on the committee are critical of Britain’s intelligence services for failing to take more robust action to protect the UK’s democratic processes from Moscow’s interference.
The report concludes that although there are many open source accounts of Russian attempts to influence the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and the 2016 Brexit referendum, the security services appeared reluctant to get involved.
The committee notes the “extreme caution” shown by the security agencies at the thought they might have “any role in relation to the UK’s democratic processes, particularly one as contentious as the EU referendum”.
The report, compiled by senior MPs and peers, details how a new UK industry of “enablers”, including lawyers, accountants and estate agents, are working “wittingly or unwittingly” as de facto agents of the Russian state.
It says the UK is clearly a target for Russian disinformation and that it should “not be complacent about a hostile state taking deliberate action with the aim of influencing our democratic processes.”
The report by the ISC was completed 10 months ago but its publication was initially delayed and was then postponed because of the 2019 election.
More to come . . .