After a delay of 10 months sitting on the British Prime Minister’s desk, the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Report on Russian interference in the UK is now available for the general public to read.
Speaking in the Commons today Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer asked Boris Johnson why he had sat for so long on a Report which was delivered to the Prime Minister 10 months ago, especially when the Report had concluded that “Russia poses an immediate and urgent threat to national security.” Johnson had no reply.
Paragraphs 39-44 of the Report state that the UK government of Theresa May and Boris Johnson did not “seek evidence” of Russian interference in British politics during the 2016 EU referendum.
David Clark (former policy advisor to Robin Cook) tweeted that “The Russia Report confirms what I have long suspected. Faced with credible allegations of Russian interference in the Brexit referendum, Ministers and the intelligence services made a conscious decision to look the other way.” He calls this a “shameful dereliction of their responsibilities.”
Former Labour MP Roger Casale also commented, “The election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote took place in the same year. Both events have Vladimir Putin’s finger-prints all over them. The only difference is that in the UK case we don’t have the forensic evidence to back this up. Thanks to the Russia Report, we now know why the evidence is missing. No one in Government wanted to look for it. So the most magnificent conjuring trick, Brexit, has been performed in front of our very eyes and the British Government, by its silence, has consented to it.” Because it did not serve the conservative party interest, orders were given to look the other way.
It is however a fact that the Russian Press Agency “Sputnik” opened a branch in Edinburgh in 2014 to peddle a separatist narrative at the time of the Scottish Referendum in support of Russia’s policies of aggression and invasion of Crimea and Donbass in Ukraine.
Paragraphs 49-54 of the Report deal with the role of Russian oligarchs in ‘Londongrad’, and the large numbers of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into UK business and society. The Report recognises that their wealth has spawned an industry of lobbyists and organisations who work for the Russian elite in the UK, thereby extending Russian influence which is often linked to promoting the nefarious interests of the Russian state. One of the dangers of this development is that Britain is being blindsided or cajoled by false narratives into failing to defend the right and just causes of countries and individuals who are suffering at the hands of Russian aggression. The case of Ukraine comes to mind.
It is important that the public fiercely condemn the UK government’s failure to act on this Report, not for the purpose of “Russia-bashing” or reopening the wounds of Brexit, but to punish those responsible for such a gross and unforgiveable dereliction of duty.