May ac­cuses Rus­sia of elec­tion med­dling, spread­ing fake news

Millennium Post - - WORLD -

LON­DON: Theresa May has ac­cused Rus­sia of med­dling in elec­tions and plant­ing fake sto­ries in the me­dia in an ex­tra­or­di­nary at­tack on its at­tempts to “weaponise in­for­ma­tion” in or­der to sow dis­cord in the west.

The prime min­is­ter spoke out against “the scale and na­ture” of Rus­sia’s ac­tions dur­ing an ad­dress at the lord mayor’s ban­quet, say­ing it was “threat­en­ing the in­ter­na­tional or­der on which we all de­pend”.

List­ing Rus­sia’s at­tempts to un­der­mine western in­sti­tu­tions in re­cent years, she said: “I have a very sim­ple mes­sage for Rus­sia. We know what you are do­ing. And you will not suc­ceed. Be­cause you un­der­es­ti­mate the re­silience of our democ­ra­cies, the en­dur­ing at­trac­tion of free and open so­ci­eties, and the com­mit­ment of western na­tions to the al­liances that bind us.

“The UK will do what is nec­es­sary to pro­tect our­selves, and work with our al­lies to do like­wise.” Her speech is a seri- ous es­ca­la­tion of the UK’S warn­ings about Rus­sia as Boris John­son, the for­eign sec­re­tary, pre­pares to visit Moscow be­fore the end of the year as part of a strat­egy of cau­tious en­gage­ment with Vladimir Putin’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Since Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea from Ukraine, May said Rus­sia had “fo­mented con­flict in the Don­bass [eastern Ukraine], re­peat­edly vi­o­lated the na­tional airspace of sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries, and mounted a sus­tained cam­paign of cy­ber-es­pi­onage and dis­rup­tion”. “This has in­cluded med­dling in elec­tions, and hack­ing the Dan­ish min­istry of de­fence and the Bun­destag [Ger­man par­lia­ment], among many oth­ers,” she told the au­di­ence of City of Lon­don busi­ness fig­ures. “It is seek­ing to weaponise in­for­ma­tion. De­ploy­ing its state-run me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions to plant fake sto­ries and photo-shopped images in an at­tempt to sow dis­cord in the west and un­der­mine our in­sti­tu­tions.”

She said the UK did not want to “re­turn to the Cold War, or to be in a state of per­pet­ual con­fronta­tion” but the UK would have to act to pro- tect the in­ter­ests of the UK, Europe and rest of the world if Rus­sia con­tin­ues on its cur­rent path. A Down­ing Street source said May was not mak­ing the in­ter­ven­tion in re­sponse to any spe­cific event but rather to a grow­ing body of ev­i­dence that Rus­sian agen­cies have been at­tempt­ing to in­ter­fere with western pol­i­tics.

The prime min­is­ter’s strong crit­i­cism of Rus­sia’s ac­tiv­i­ties comes in con­trast to comments this week­end by Don­ald Trump, who said on Satur­day that he be­lieved Vladimir Putin’s de­nials of hav­ing med­dled in the Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. May did not say on Mon­day whether she was con­cerned with Rus­sian in­ter­ven­tion in any UK demo­cratic pro­cesses, but Ben Brad­shaw, a lead­ing Labour MP, is among those to have called for a judge-led in­quiry.

Theresa May with Vladimir Putin

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