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What are the Russian interference and hacking allegations?

Russia's ambassador to the UK, Andrey Kelin has sought to dismiss claims that Russia interfered in UK elections and allegedly attempted to steal British research into a potential COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccine.

Here's a look at the allegations being made about Russia and what each side has said so far...

 

What are the hacks on vaccine research?

The UK, US and Canada all recently discovered hackers launching attacks against their Coronavirus vaccine development projects. According to reports, hackers have used custom malware and have attempted to exploit other vulnerabilities in software to attack pharmaceutical businesses and academic institutions.

It is believed that the attempted hacks were to try and steal intellectual property, data and general research information from vaccine development programs.

 

What are the allegations about the hacking?

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre, along with Canada's Communications Security Establishment has blamed the attacks on the Advanced Persistent Threat 29 (APT29) group. Also known as 'Cozy Bear', APT29 is a Russian hacker group. Previous hacking attempts, including on the Norwegian Government and US think tanks are alleged to have been carried out by Cozy Bear.

The UK and Canada have alleged that APT29 has "almost certainly" been working for Russian intelligence services, a claim that has been endorsed by the United States' National Security Agency.

 

What has Russia said about the allegations?

Russia has denied any involvement in the attempted hackings. Speaking to the Financial Times, Dmitry Peskov, President Putin's spokesman said;

“We do not have information on who could have hacked pharmaceutical companies and research centers in the UK”

“We can say one thing: Russia has nothing to do with these attempts. We do not accept such accusations.”

On Sunday, speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Russia's ambassador to the UK Andrey Kelin said that he did not believe the allegations put forward and that it was "impossible" to link hackers to any one country.

 

What has the UK said?

The UK's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, speaking on Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, that authorities in the UK were "absolutely confident" that Russian intelligence agencies were behind the attacks on UK vaccine research and that the UK would be holding Russia to account. 

Mr Raab said that the UK was working with its allies to warn people and organisations of the attacks and to call Russia out. He said, "at the time that the world is coming together to try and tackle COVID-19, particularly come up with a global solution for a vaccine, I think it's outrageous and reprehensible that the Russian Government is engaged in this activity."

 

What about interference in UK elections?

There have long been allegations that Russia has interfered in UK elections and referendums. This week, we are likely to hear more on the matter as the long-awaited Russia Report is set to be published in the UK.

The report's publication has been delayed and there had previously been promises that it would be released after the General Election in December 2019. The contents of the report are currently unknown but the report is expected to be published before Parliament's summer recess begins on Wednesday.

There have been allegations of interference in the 2017 and 2019 UK General Elections, as well as in the Scottish Independence Referendum and EU Referendum. On Sunday, the Russian ambassador to the UK denied interference in the UK elections, saying "Our policy is not a policy of interference”.

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