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UK accuses 'Russian actors' of interfering in election, vaccine cyber attacks

The claim that the NHS was part of any US-UK trade talks was denied by the Tories at the time and an investigation launched into the document leak. Raab later also issued a statement to condemn "irresponsible" cyber attacks by the Russian Intelligence Services, who he claimed were collecting information on vaccine development and research into the COVID-19 virus.

PTI | London | Updated: 16-07-2020 20:03 IST | Created: 16-07-2020 19:47 IST
UK accuses 'Russian actors' of interfering in election, vaccine cyber attacks
Representative image Image Credit: ANI

The UK government on Thursday accused "Russian actors" of seeking to interfere in the December 2019 General Election through illicitly acquired documents and also condemned the alleged cyber attacks from Moscow to collect COVID-19 vaccine data. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons in a written statement that after extensive analysis the government was "almost certain" that Russians sought to interfere in the UK polls, which resulted in a landslide win for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked government documents.

"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. When these gained no traction, further attempts were made to promote the illicitly acquired material online in the run up to the General Election," Raab said. "Whilst there is no evidence of a broad spectrum Russian campaign against the General Election, any attempt to interfere in our democratic processes is completely unacceptable. It is, and will always be, an absolute priority to protect our democracy and elections. There is an ongoing criminal investigation and it would be inappropriate for us to say anything further at this point," he said.

The leaked documents of UK-US trade negotiations became a key part of the Opposition Labour Party's election message on the National Health Service (NHS) being at risk under the ruling Conservatives. The claim that the NHS was part of any US-UK trade talks was denied by the Tories at the time and an investigation launched into the document leak.

Raab later also issued a statement to condemn "irresponsible" cyber attacks by the Russian Intelligence Services, who he claimed were collecting information on vaccine development and research into the COVID-19 virus. "It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic," said Raab.

"While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behaviour, the UK and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health. The UK will continue to counter those conducting such cyber attacks, and work with our allies to hold perpetrators to account," he said. The statement follows a joint advisory issued on Thursday by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the US and Canada on how to protect against these attacks.

The UK Foreign Office said the "Russian actors" responsible are known and tracked in open source as APT29, Cozy Bear and The Dukes. The NCSC are almost certain (95 per cent) that APT29 are part of the Russian Intelligence Services. APT29 has targeted medical research and development organisations. NCSC assess it is highly likely (80-90 per cent) that this activity was to collect information on COVID-19 vaccine research or research into the COVID-19 virus itself, it said.


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