Disinfo: The British Parliament’s “Russia Report” is not based on any investigation and provides no evidence

Summary

The British Parliament Intelligence and Security Committee’s “Russia Report” is not based on any investigation and provides no evidence. The report is based only on the need to ride the wave of Russophobia fuelled by US Democrats.

Disproof

This is a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative attempting to depict accusations of Russian meddling in Western democratic processes as factually unfounded and driven by “Russophobia”. The article repeats the disinformation message often spread by pro-Kremlin outlets claiming that Russia never tried to influence British electoral processes, such as the 2016 Brexit referendum or the British 2017 and 2019 elections. The British Parliament Intelligence and Security Committee’s (ISC) Russia Report describes and assesses the threats posed by Russia to the UK, and in particular to the UK’s democratic processes, as well as the actions that the UK intelligence community is taking to counter these threats. The report covers three aspects of the Russian threat to the UK: 1) hostile cyber-operations against the UK; 2) disinformation and political influence operations targeted on the UK; 3) Connections of Russsian oligarchs with sectors of the British establishment and the financing of UK political parties, charities, academic and cultural institutions by such oligarchs. The report is not motivated by “Russophobia” induced by US democrats , as the article claims, but expresses a genuine and evidence-based concern of many UK officials about the threats posed by Russian hostile influence operations targeted on the UK. Moreover, it is not true – as the article claims – that the report is not based on any investigation and that it provides no evidence. The report is based on considerable written and oral evidence from UK government and intelligence community sources. It also quotes open source investigations of Russian operations aimed at influencing UK electoral processes, including the 2016 EU referendum. For further background on Russian interference in various electoral processes in Europe read here. Read our article on Russian election meddling in EU countries and in the US here. For more information on Russia's interference in Western democratic processes, see the EUvsDisinfo Elections page. Read a previous case claiming that Russia has not interfered in British elections nor in the elections of any country.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 207
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 22/07/2020
  • Outlet language(s) Italian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: UK, Russia
  • Keywords: election meddling, Democratic Party (US), Brexit, Russophobia
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Anti-Russian report is needed to distract the British from their own problems

The anti-Russian report is needed to distract the British from their own problems. One of the goals of the publication in the UK of a report on “Russian interference” in political processes in Europe is to divert attention from their own problems. Judging by the statements made at the parliamentary and government levels, it was obvious that the British had no proof. Nevertheless, the main message of the report was that “Russian interference is unacceptable.” If there are any problems in British society, it means that it is not the government, not the parliament, not the civil society, not the judicial system, but the Russians who are to blame. This primitive and crude rhetoric still works to some extent.

Disproof

This disinformation message is a classic example of the Russia did not do/you have no evidence approach to the report published by the Intelligence and Security Committee of the British Parliament. The document shows for example that there is Russian cyber intrusion into the UK's critical national infrastructure; and that Russian actors orchestrated phishing attempts against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory during the investigation into the Salisbury attacks. The report also says: "Russia may spread disinformation or seek to influence political events for a wide range of purposes, but all in support of its underlying foreign policy objectives: • direct support of a pro-Russian narrative in relation to particular events (whilst some of the outright falsehoods which are put forward may not be widely believed, they may still succeed in casting doubt on the true account of events (...); • direct support of Russia’s preferred outcome in relation to an overseas election or political issue; and • general poisoning of the political narrative in the West by fomenting political extremism and ‘wedge issues’, and by the ‘astroturfing’ of Western public opinion; and general discrediting of the West." The report also indicates that Russian money has been welcome in the UK and it has had access to the highest levels of UK companies and political figures. Russian intervention in European, and in particular British affairs, is well known and documented. There is compelling evidence that the Russian state was behind Alexander Litvinenko's assassination through poisoning with radioactive polonium on British soil. A British murder investigation pointed to a member of Russia’s Federal Protective Service as the prime suspect. A public enquiry concluded that Litvinenko’s murder was a Russian FSB operation, probably personally approved by President Putin. As for the Skripal poisoning, the British Police have presented a solid chain of evidence, with pictures, connecting the suspects to the locations in the case. Parts of the material have been released to the public. The evidence was sufficient to charge two Russian nationals, Anatoliy Chepiga and Aleksandr Mishkin with the attack on the Skripals, both Russian military intelligence operatives from the GRU, who travelled to the UK using fake names and documents. Numerous investigations have provided convincing evidence of Russian interference in the Brexit referendum and in elections across Europe and in the US - see more information here, here and here. In early 2018, Twitter admitted that Russian trolls had indeed targeted the Brexit vote during an evidence session with British MPs, who flew to the United States to question representatives from major technology firms as part of their fake news inquiry. Further information came to light later in 2018, when Twitter released data showing that an army of Russian trolls sent thousands of messages with the hashtag #ReasonsToLeaveEU on the day of the Brexit vote. This army, which was linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), constituted approximately 3800 accounts. See similar cases claiming that The West falsely accuses Russia of election meddling, or that Twitter didn’t find any Russian effort to influence Brexit, There is no evidence of Russia’s involvement in the Skripals’ poisoning.

The expansion of NATO to the East is military aggression

The essence of the ongoing expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance to the east is a kind of military aggression. Sea Breeze 2020 NATO exercise in the Black Sea is powder keg games. NATO activities in the Black Sea and the Sea Breeze exercises are creating an explosive political-military situation, contributing to the militarisation of the Black Sea states and weakening regional security.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about aggressive NATO and encircled Russia. NATO enlargement means that NATO's door remains open to any European country in a position to undertake the commitments and obligations of membership and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area. Central and Eastern European countries began seeking NATO membership in the early 1990s. NATO actively sought to create a cooperative environment that was conducive to enlargement while simultaneously building special relations with Russia. Furthermore, NATO does not "expand" in the aggressive sense as described by pro-Kremlin media. Rather, it considers the applications of candidate countries who want to join the alliance based on their own national will. As such, NATO enlargement is not directed against Russia. NATO's "Open Door Policy" is based on Article 10 of the Alliance's founding document, the North Atlantic Treaty (1949). Every sovereign nation has the right to choose its own security arrangements. This is a fundamental principle of European security and one to which Russia has also subscribed. Sea Breeze is constantly becoming the topic of disinformation narratives. Sea Breeze is an annually recurring multinational exercise, it does not aim, nor threaten, to invade any territory or to exert any pressure. Sea Breeze seeks to build combined capability and capacity to ensure maritime regional security and foster cooperative relationships among partnering nations. Read similar cases claiming that Sea Breeze exercises intend to create military-political pressure on Moscow, that "NATO's "Sea Breeze 2019" was a total failure thanks to Russia", and that "The United States is preparing Ukraine for a new provocation against Russia".

Three Ukrainian cities want to become a part of Russia

Ukrainian cities Odesa, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv want to reunite with Russia following the now flourishing Crimea.

Disproof

No evidence is given. This is part of a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about alleged Ukrainian disintegration. It is consistent with pro-Kremlin narratives alleging that Ukraine is a degrading state. Ukraine is a sovereign state whose borders are guaranteed by international agreements and were de facto violated by Russia, which started a war in Ukraine. Ukrainian regions did not adopt local legislation which allows for independent economic or political relations which undermine the policies of central authorities, as alleged. Nor they are discussing such development with Russia as the publication claims.