The long-awaited ‘Russia Report’ from Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has been published.
The report was published on Tuesday morning following an extensive inquiry by the previous committee that found that the UK is “one of Russia’s top Western intelligence targets”.
In the report, it is said that “Russian influence in the UK is the new normal” and that “Successive Governments have welcomed the oligarchs and their money with open arms, providing them with a means of recycling illicit finance through the London ‘laundromat’, and connections at the highest levels with access to UK companies and political figures.”
The Committee’s report confirmed that Russia tried to influence the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. It said that there had also been allegations of misinformation, bots and trolls being used by Russia to influence the EU Referendum in 2016. The Committee said on Tuesday at a press conference launching the report that the impact of such interference, such as whether it changed how people voted, would be difficult or impossible to judge, but that “no one in Government knew if Russia interfered in or sought to influence the referendum because they did not want to know”
It was added, “The UK Government have actively avoided looking for evidence that Russia interfered” in the 2016 EU Referendum.
The Committee did, however, welcome the Government’s “increasingly assertive approach when it comes to identifying, and laying blame on, the perpetrators of cyber attacks”.
The report said that the UK is “clearly a target for Russian disinformation” and that Russia is “a highly capable cyber actor, employing organised crime groups to supplement its cyber skills.”
The report called on social media companies to take action and remove “covert hostile state material” and said the Government must “name and shame” those who fail to do so. Further, the report called for more scrutiny on how members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia, or “work directly for major Russian companies linked to the Russian state”
The 55-page report covers a variety of topics in detail, including why Russia may target the UK, how the UK Government has responded and what the Committee believes it should do moving forward.
The Labour Party has called on the government to “study the conclusions of the report carefully and take the necessary steps to keep our country safe.”
Downing Street has been accused of delaying the release of the report for political reasons ahead of the UK’s 2019 December General Election – something it has denied. The report, released today, which originally sent to the Prime Minister on 17 October 2019. The Committee has described it as “a matter of great regret” that the report was not published last November.
The version of the report that has been released to the public is redacted, due to some information providing “highly sensitive” detail that will not be published in the interests of protecting national security. The report can be found on the ISC’s website.