A long-awaited report published Tuesday on Russian influence in British politics criticized the British government for its slow response to Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
The authors said it was “astonishing” that no one sought to protect democratic process in the United Kingdom, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
While the report from the parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee said it would be “difficult—if not impossible—to prove” allegations that Russia sought to influence the referendum, it was clear that the government “was slow to recognize existence of the threat” even after evidence emerged of Russian interference in the US elections back in 2014. “As a result, the government did not take action to protect the UK’s process in 2016,” the report said.
“What we do know about Russian interference in the UK is it is the new normal.” The report’s authors criticized the British government for “actively avoiding” looking into the Russian threat.
“Serious questions needed to be asked” why ministers didn’t look into the issue, the authors said.
The report says Russia sees Britain as one of its top intelligence targets in the West. It said Russian influence in the UK is the “new normal,” and said successive governments have welcomed Russian oligarchs with open arms.
The report’s release comes only days after Britain, the United States, and Canada accused hackers linked to Russian intelligence agencies of trying to steal information from researchers working on a potential coronavirus vaccine.