Belfast Telegraph

Britain accused of diverting WikiLeaks attention with ‘Russian threat’ claims

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson admitted the UK has no evidence that Russia is “actually involved” in undermining democratic processes.

Russia has accused British intelligence agencies of trying to divert attention from the latest WikiLeaks revelations on surveillance by talking up Moscow’s subversive threat.

Russia’s Embassy to the UK said the security services were engaged in a “brutal propaganda campaign” after GCHQ spies warned political parties of the threat Kremlin hackers pose to democracy.

According to the Sunday Times, seminars will be held to educate politicians on the threat from Russia after its spies were accused of carrying out cyber-attacks to tamper with US and German elections.

Ciaran Martin, chief executive of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), has written to leaders of all the main political parties to offer advice on how to withstand attacks, the newspaper said.

Commenting on the revelations, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson admitted the UK has no evidence that Russia is “actually involved” in undermining democratic processes, adding: “but what we do have is plenty of evidence that the Russians are capable of doing that”.

The Russian Embassy seized on his comments and claimed they showed that agencies are trying to divert from WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of purported CIA files, apparently laying bare its covert hacking programme, including techniques targeting consumer software

It was claimed that software was developed to turn smart TVs into listening devices in a project codenamed Weeping Angel and including input from Britain’s MI5.

In a statement posted online, the Russian Embassy said: “Russia is accused of conducting subversive activity against Britain. We absolutely cannot accept that. In that regard, highly relevant are the words of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that Britain has no evidence of Russia’s interference in the UK domestic affairs. And this is true.

“At the same time, we would like to note that already for a long time, a brutal propaganda campaign has been under way to paint Russia as a country engaged in undermining Britain, including through hacking.

“Key to all this is that those allegations are not supported by any evidence or facts. And the Foreign Secretary had to admit that. Still, the campaign is going on, and the British people are being scared by the so-called ‘Russian threat’.

“However, it is well-known that according to the reports, it is the British special services who, together with the CIA, are active in development of technologies for total surveillance over the private life of citizens and society as a whole.

“Particularly broad possibilities for that are associated with the CIA library of fingerprints/stolen identities of various foreign hackers which could be used to put blame on others. That makes the murky business of hacking even murkier.

“The British special services, among other things, seem to be rendering CIA sisterly assistance in trying to divert attention from the intelligence debacle of the latest WikiLeaks disclosure, as all too often, at Russia’s expense.

“We call upon the British side to stop its anti-Russian campaign which undermines our bilateral relationship.”

In February, Mr Martin warned that 188 high-level cyber-attacks, “many of which threatened national security”, had struck Britain in the previous three months.