We’re watching YOU Mrs May, warn Russians
RUSSIAN officials yesterday hit back at Theresa May for accusing the Kremlin of cyber espionage and meddling in European elections.
They said the Prime Minister had ‘made a fool of herself ’ and described her allegations as ‘irresponsible and groundless’.
The comments came amid claims that more than 400 Twitter accounts linked to a Russian ‘troll factory’ in St Petersburg tweeted about Brexit, fuelling concerns Moscow intervened in the EU referendum.
In a speech on Monday at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at London’s Guildhall, Mrs May sparked the row by accusing Russia of trying to ‘undermine free societies’ and ‘sow discord in the West’.
She addressed the Kremlin directly, saying: ‘We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed’.
Yesterday the Russian foreign ministry responded with a tweet that read: ‘We know what YOU are doing as well. Dear Theresa, we hope, one day you will try Crimean #Massandra red wine.’
The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Mrs May drinking red wine at the banquet.
And in a statement posted yesterday on the website of the Russian embassy in the UK, foreign affairs spokesman Maria Zakharova: ‘The assertions are not brand new, but the main common point behind them is the irresponsible and groundless nature of accusations against Russia.
‘The British society is currently not going through its finest hour due to the ongoing process of exiting the EU and internal splits.
‘It is understandable that an external enemy is direly needed to distract public attention for which role Russia has been chosen.’
Russian senators also accused Mrs May of ‘making a fool of herself’ with the ‘counterproductive’ speech. In a growing war of words, Alexei Pushkov, a Russian senator involved in media policy, said: ‘The world order that suits May, with the seizure of Iraq, war in Libya, the rise of IS and terrorism in Europe, has had its day. You can’t save it by attacking Russia.’
Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russia’s Parliament, said: ‘Russia, like the UK, is by no means striving to bring back the Cold War. We are ready to develop a mutual dialogue and partnership relations.’
And Frants Klintsevich, deputy chairman of the defence and security committee in the Parliament’s upper house, said: ‘May has done more damage to herself than to us, making a fool of herself in the eyes of the world community and once again raising Russia’s profile.’
Mrs May had used the speech to criticise Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the conflict in Ukraine, and cyber attacks on governments across Europe.
The Electoral Commission is investigating suggestions that Russia used Facebook and Twitter to interfere in the Brexit vote.
Concerns have been raised that a Russian state-backed ‘troll factory’ in St Petersburg influenced the EU referendum by posting tweets mocking the warnings of the Remain campaign.
Last night it emerged that University of Edinburgh researchers have identified 419 accounts operating from the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Kremlin’s troll army, which were seen to be attempting to influence UK politics. Twitter has suspended 2,752 accounts linked to the IRA.
Yesterday, a report by Freedom House, a global non-profit organisation, said the factory ‘stood at the centre of coordinated Russian trolling activities’.
‘Distract public attention’
Backlash: The picture posted by the Russians showing Theresa May drinking at the banquet