We’re watch­ing YOU Mrs May, warn Rus­sians

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Larisa Brown De­fence and Se­cu­rity Edi­tor

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

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