LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Thursday Russia had tried to interfere in its 2019 general election by illicitly acquiring sensitive documents relating to a planned free trade agreement with Washington and leaking them online.
Russia, which has also faced allegations of trying to influence the outcome of elections in the United States and France, did not immediately respond to the accusation but has previously denied meddling in foreign countries.
British foreign minister Dominic Raab said a government investigation had found that Russia tried repeatedly to meddle in last December’s election won by the Conservative Party, though the ultimate aim was not immediately published.
“It is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 General Election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked Government documents,” Raab said in a statement.
“Sensitive government documents relating to the UK-US Free Trade Agreement were illicitly acquired before the 2019 General Election and disseminated online via the social media platform Reddit.”
The investigation found that when these documents made little impact, further attempts were made to promote illicitly obtained material online before the election, Raab said.
Relations between London and Moscow hit a post-Cold War low in 2018 when Britain blamed Moscow for trying to kill former double agent Sergei Skripal with a Soviet-developed nerve agent on British soil. Russia denied it was to blame.
U.S. intelligence believes Russia also sought to intervene in the 2016 presidential election to help eventual winner Donald Trump, and French President Emmanuel Macron has scolded Russia for spreading fake news about him during a 2017 election.
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