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21 July 2020 14:40

Chris Grayling Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament Julian Lewis

Russian influence at the highest spheres of the UK is now entrenched, Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee warned today in its long-awaited Russia Report, while counter-intelligence and cyber defense activities are fragmented across the UK. It is notable that a number of Members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia, or work directly for major Russian companies linked to the Russian state – these relationships should be carefully scrutinised, given the potential for the Russian state to exploit them," the report warns. "There are a number of agencies and organisations across the Intelligence Community which have a role in countering the Russian cyber threat, and it was not immediately apparent how these various agencies and organisations are co-ordinated and indeed complement each other," the Intelligence and Security Committee warns. Spelling out a fragmented inter-agency set of responsibilities, the Committee urged the government to ensure the next iteration of the National Cyber Security Strategy addresses this need for "greater cohesion". Indeed, there are a number of other Ministers with some form of responsibility for cyber", notes the Committee in the 55-page Russia Report, which was published today after Boris Johnson's government failed to place its preferred candidate as committee chair.

"The [intelligence] Agencies… do not view themselves as holding primary responsibility for the active defence of the UK's democratic processes from hostile foreign interference, and indeed during the course of our Inquiry appeared determined to distance themselves from any suggestion that they might have a prominent role in relation to the democratic process itself," the report notes. A report into Russian interference in British politics has revealed attempts by the Kremlin to guide the 2014 Scottish Independent Referendum. Carried out by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, the damning 50-page report reveals the extent to which Russia has been interfering in UK politics over the last five to seven years. The Conservative Party has been accused of attempting to cover up the report, which also explores interference in the 2016 general election, Russia-linked donations to British political parties, espionage and cyber crime activities. "What is clear is that Russian influence in the UK is 'the new normal'," the report states, "successive Governments have welcomed the Russian oligarchy with open arms, and there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business, political and social scene – in 'Londongrad' in particular." The Intelligence and Security Committee said it was "astonishing" no-one in government had sought to protect the electoral processes from potential subversion – and concluded the influence of Russian money in the UK is so pervasive it amounts to a "new normal".

The committee said it was unable to determine whether Russia attempted to influence the EU referendum in 2016. Criticising the government for avoiding attempts to investigate any efforts to influence the outcome of the Brexit vote, the committee said the government "did not want to know" if there had been interference – and had "actively avoided looking for evidence". Russia's "elite" and those close to Vladimir Putin – aided by the UK's 1994 investor visa scheme – have put money into so many different sectors in Britain that any government measures against them would be "damage limitation", the report states. The Russia report also revealed the staggering influence Russian money has had on all aspects of British life, referring to "the growth industry of enablers" in the UK. "The money was also invested in extending patronage and building influence across a wide sphere of the British establishment – PR firms, charities, political interests, academia and cultural institutions were all willing beneficiaries of Russian money," the ISC stated.

While the report did not go into any detail on political donations, it did note that "a number of members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia, or work directly for major Russian companies". The ISC reports states that Russia's cyber capability "when combined with its willingness to deploy it in a malicious capacity, is a matter of grave concern" – and poses an "urgent" threat to the UK's national security. Getty 12/20 Putin speaks with Leonardo DiCaprio on 23 November 2010 after a concert to mark the International Tiger Conservation Forum in St Petersburg AFP/Getty 13/20 Putin holds two ancient amphorae he found while scuba diving in Taman Bay as he visits an underwater archaeological site at Phanagoria on 10 August 2011 AFP/Getty 14/20 Putin caresses a Persian leopard cub as he visits the Persian leopard breeding and rehabilitation centre in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on 4 February 2014 AFP/Getty 15/20 Putin rides a train in Moscow on 21 November 2019 Sputnik/AFP/Getty 16/20 Putin hunts fish in southern Siberia in August 2017 Getty 17/20 Russian President Vladimir Putin plunges into the icy waters of lake Seliger during the celebration of the Epiphany holiday in Russia's Tver region in January 2018 AFP/Getty 18/20 Putin measures a dead polar bear on the island Alexandra Land, part of the Franz Josef Land archipalego in the Arctic Ocean in April 2010 Getty 19/20 Putin sits inside a T-90AM tank during a visit to an arms exhibition in the Urals town of Nizhny Tagil in September 2011 Getty 20/20 Putin holds a Bulgarian sheperd dog given to him by his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov after their press conference in Sofia on 13 November 2010 AFP/Getty 1/20 Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin takes part in a judo training session at a sports complex in St Petersburg on 22 December 2010 AFP/Getty 2/20 Putin holds a tommy gun during a visit to Izhevsk Mechanical Works, a weapons manufacturer in May 2010 AFP/Getty 3/20 Putin plays with his dogs Buffy (L) and Yume at his residence in Novo-Ogariovo in March 2013 AFP/Getty 4/20 Putin wears a helmet and the uniform of the Renault Formula One team before driving a F1 race car on a special track in Leningrad region outside St. Petersburg on in November 2010 Getty 5/20 Putin sports a pair of goggles during a visit to the Technology Park of the Novosibirsk Academic Town in February 2012 Getty 6/20 Putin holds a huge pike fish, after he caught it in the Tyva on 26 July 2013 AFP/Getty 7/20 Putin inspects a horse in the Karatash area, near the town of Abakan in March 2010 AFP/Getty 8/20 Putin looks down the sight of a replica kalashnikov rifle at a target range in Moscow in April 2012 AFP/Getty 9/20 Putin works out at a gym at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi on 30 August 2015 Getty 10/20 Putin drives down a highway in St Petersburg in August 2013 AFP/Getty 11/20 Putin takes part in a judo training session at the Moscow sports complex in St Petersburg, on 22 December 2010. Getty 12/20 Putin speaks with Leonardo DiCaprio on 23 November 2010 after a concert to mark the International Tiger Conservation Forum in St Petersburg AFP/Getty 13/20 Putin holds two ancient amphorae he found while scuba diving in Taman Bay as he visits an underwater archaeological site at Phanagoria on 10 August 2011 AFP/Getty 14/20 Putin caresses a Persian leopard cub as he visits the Persian leopard breeding and rehabilitation centre in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on 4 February 2014 AFP/Getty 15/20 Putin rides a train in Moscow on 21 November 2019 Sputnik/AFP/Getty 16/20 Putin hunts fish in southern Siberia in August 2017 Getty 17/20 Russian President Vladimir Putin plunges into the icy waters of lake Seliger during the celebration of the Epiphany holiday in Russia's Tver region in January 2018 AFP/Getty 18/20 Putin measures a dead polar bear on the island Alexandra Land, part of the Franz Josef Land archipalego in the Arctic Ocean in April 2010 Getty 19/20 Putin sits inside a T-90AM tank during a visit to an arms exhibition in the Urals town of Nizhny Tagil in September 2011 Getty 20/20 Putin holds a Bulgarian sheperd dog given to him by his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov after their press conference in Sofia on 13 November 2010 AFP/Getty The Intelligence and Security Committee said it had been clear Russia under Putin "has moved from potential partner to established threat, fundamentally unwilling to adhere to international law" – highlighting the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 as "stark indicators".