Everything you need to know about the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report

Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 1:42 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 1:42 pm
The Russian embassy in London (Photo: Luke Dray/Getty Images)

The Intelligence and Security Committee's long-awaited report into Russian activity in the UK has called for "immediate action" to tackle it.

The report claims the UK government "actively avoided" looking for Russian interference during the EU and Scottish independence referendums.

It had been claimed ahead of publication that the report would feature evidence of "the first post-Soviet interference in a Western democratic election," but much of the "highly sensitive" detail will not be made public, over fears Russia could use it to threaten the UK.

Describing Russian interference as “the new normal”, the committee found 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 immediate and urgent threat to our national security."

Here's everything you need to know about the report and what it contains.

Why was the report delayed?

The report has been published after months of setbacks, and was postponed by Boris Johnson's decision to call a general election in late 2019. The committee members also criticised Downing Street for the delay in publication.

Labour MP Kevan Jones said there was "no reason" for the delay in the publication, adding that claims by the Prime Minister it required six weeks to get his confirmation for the report were "categorically not true".

What is in the report?

The inquiry covered a number of topics, and concluded that the UK is a "top target" for Russia.

But perhaps the most damning thing to come out of the report is its accusation that no one in the British government sought to identify the truth, which is why there is no evidence of Russian interference in the Brexit referendum.

Nobody in Government wanted to touch the issue of Russian interference with a “10-foot pole”, Intelligence and Security Committee member Stewart Hosie said at a press conference to launch the report, “because they did not want to know”.

“This is in stark contrast to the US response to reported interference in the 2016 presidential election," he added.

“There should have been an assessment of Russian interference in the EU referendum and there must now be one, and the public must be told the results of that assessment.”

The report includes a recommendation for an independent enquiry into the influence of Russia on the 2016 European Referendum.

However, the British government has rejected the need for an investigation.

"A retrospective assessment of the EU referendum is not necessary," said a Downing Street spokesperson.

What about the Scottish independence referendum?

In relation to the 2014 independence referendum, the report cites “credible open source commentary suggesting that Russia undertook influence campaigns in relation to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014."

The report notes, “For example, it was widely reported shortly after the referendum that Russian election observers had suggested that there were irregularities in the conduct of the vote, and this position was widely pushed by Russian state media."

The document also cites “Russian state-owned international broadcasters such as RT and Sputnik” as tools of disinformation and malicious influence - which will raise new questions about former First Minister Alex Salmond’s programme for RT.

What has Russia said?

Russia has disputed the report's findings.

Andrei Kelin, Russia's ambassador to the UK, dismissed the accusations in a BBC interview ahead of the report's publication, saying his country had no interest in interfering in British domestic politics.

"We do not see any point in interference because for us, whether it will be (the) Conservative Party or Labour's party at the head of this country, we will try to settle relations and to establish better relations than now,” he commented.

"We do not interfere at all.”