Russia targeted UK with campaign of hacking, disinformation and political meddling, shock report reveals

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RUSSIA has targeted the UK with a campaign of hacking, disinformation and political meddling, a shock report reveals.

Successive British governments “took their eye off the ball” and “badly underestimated” the threat posed by Moscow, MPs found.

President Vladimir Putin’s Russia targeted the UK with a campaign of hacking, disinformation and political meddling, a shocking report has found
The report says that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 EU referendum

London has scornfully become known as “Londongrad” because so many of President Vladimir Putin’s cronies live there.

The capital has even become a “laundromat” for dirty Russian money, the report found.

And dodgy oligarchs have penetrated the very heart of our democracy by donating to political parties and hiring peers for their businesses.

The shocking reach of the Kremlin into the UK was laid bare yesterday in the long-awaited Russia Report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

The dossier states: “It is clear Russia poses a significant threat to the UK on a number of fronts — from espionage to interference in democratic processes, and to serious crime.”

Human rights campaigner Bill Browder claimed Mr Putin’s Russia poses a “bigger risk” than it did under Communism.

He said: “In a certain way, it is more of a threat than Cold War Russia. A few decades ago, we had our defences up, but now we have relaxed defences and they have fully infiltrated Britain.”

The report revealed that there is “credible” evidence Russia tried to interfere in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum to break up the UK.

It states that Russian spies tried to hack the Foreign Office and Britain’s top secret lab at Porton Down, Wilts, in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning in 2018 of the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

And the Government is criticised for not investigating claims Russia tried to tamper with the 2016 Brexit vote — with the report calling for an inquiry.

Social media giants are blasted for “failing” to stop hostile states, such as Russia, from using their platforms to target the West.

And the dossier claims the Official Secrets Act is out of date and it is not illegal to be a foreign spy in Britain.

Boris Johnson is ‘absolutely’ confident the Brexit referendum result was fair

Former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury in 2018

SNP MP Stewart Hosie said the UK was ‘one of Russia’s top Western intelligence targets’

Bill Browder says Mr Putin’s Russia poses a ‘bigger risk’ than it did under Communism

The damning 50-page report paints a shocking picture of the sheer scale of Moscow’s interference in Britain’s affairs.

It reveals oligarchs exploited a visa scheme set up in 1996, designed to attract investors to the UK, to live in the capital.

A growing army of wealthy Russians used London to launder their dirty money.

The report states: “What is now clear is that it [the visa] was in fact counter-productive, in that it offered ideal mechanisms by which illicit finance could be recycled through what is referred to as the London ‘laundromat’.”

Russian billionaires pumped their dodgy cash into supporting charities, galleries and political parties, the report found.

They were helped in their “nefarious” scheme by an army of “enablers” — UK lawyers, accountants and PR execs who have cashed in on the Russian boom.

The report added: “Russian influence in the UK is ‘the new normal’ and there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Mr Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth.”

Naive ministers in successive governments “took their eye off the ball” when it came to Russia and underestimated the threat the UK was under, the dossier found.

Crucial resources were diverted from protecting Britain from Russia to focus on terrorism.

SNP MP Stewart Hosie, a member of the committee, said the UK was “one of Russia’s top Western intelligence targets”.

He added: “Russia poses an all-encompassing security threat which is fuelled by paranoia about the West and a desire to be seen as a resurgent great power. It carries out malicious cyber activity in order to assert itself aggressively, for example by attempting to interfere in the elections of other countries.”

Mr Browder, a former fund manager in Russia who now campaigns against human rights abuses, wants laws to freeze the assets of Russian crooks.

The PM’s spokesman said Boris Johnson is “absolutely” confident the Brexit referendum result was fair, adding: “We’ve seen no evidence of successful interference.”