Government ministers are no longer to claim there has been ‘no successful examples’ of Russian interference in UK elections, just four months after Boris Johnson claimed theories about a report on the issue were ‘Bermuda Triangle stuff’.
The change in official line, first reported by the Guardian, appears to be an admission that the Kremlin has attempted to distort politics in Britain.
Cabinet Office sources confirmed to the newspaper that the position had been changed after an investigation into the alleged hacking of a special adviser’s personal email account.
Both Boris Johnson and Theresa May’s government have both claimed there were ‘no successful examples’ of Russian interference in UK elections and the EU referendum.
But reports assessing a leaked copy of the Russian interference report, which is still yet to be officially published, suggests the Russians could have had an affect on the 2016 vote but the impact is ‘unquantifiable’.
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The Times reported that the parliament’s intelligence committee in 2019, then chaired by Dominic Grieve, highlighted the impact of articles posted by Russian new sites that were widely disseminated on social media.
The report cannot be published until Downing Street appoints a new set of members to the committee, with former transport secretary Chris Grayling expected to take the role of chair.
Officials believe that the release of government papers surrounding the NHS in trade talks during last year’s election was another sign of Russia’s ‘hack and lack’ strategy,
It was first used in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election after a series of Democratic emails were leaked.
During the election campaign Johnson claimed that questions around the intelligence committee’s report was ‘Bermuda Triangle stuff’.
He said: ‘There is absolutely no evidence at all to show any influence into any British electoral event.
‘And the reason I won’t (publish) – or at least the reason I decided not to ages ago – is that I see no reason to interfere with the normal timetable just because there is an election going on.’