The Russia report has slammed the UK government for actively failing to investigate attempts by the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
The report– which the government has sat on for nine months – was finally published today and damned the government for “not wanting to know” if Russia interfered in the UK’s democratic process and so made no serious effort to find out if it had done so.
Russian influence among the UK’s political and business elite is described in the report as “the new normal” where the capital is Londongrad, aka the “laundromat” because it offers “ideal mechanisms by which illicit finance could be recycled”.
The big question was whether Russia had interfered with the 2016 Brexit referendum but that, and so much else, was left unanswered by the 50 page report published today by parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC).
The ISC pointed squarely to the government and its intelligence agencies for failing to even pose the question never mind look for evidence to provide an answer. British intelligence has treated protecting democracy as a “hot potato” in recent years and Gordon Corera, the BBC security correspondent, said the spy agencies are “reluctant to get involved in anything that looks ‘political’”.
Welcoming oligarchs with open arms
Among other serious issues raised in the report are the spread of Russian money and influence in the UK and the willingness of successive governments to welcome “with open arms” oligarchs promising large investments in the UK.
The ISC said “few questions if any were asked about the provenance of this considerable wealth” causing issues around the UK’s investment visa scheme, the judicial system, housing market and PR firms.
“A lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, are accepted because of their wealth,” states the report.
Lords linked with Russia
It adds: “It is notable that a number of members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia, or work directly for major Russian companies linked to the Russian state.”
The committee said these relationships “should be carefully scrutinised” because of “the potential for the Russian state to exploit them.”
Evidence of Russian interference in Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014 was backed up by “credible open source commentary”, said the report.
It added: “Russia’s cyber capability, when combined with its willingness to deploy it in a malicious capacity, is a matter of grave concern, and poses an immediate and urgent threat to our national security.”
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary called Russia a “top national security priority” and added: “We are not for one second complacent about the threat Russia poses when it comes to cyber.”