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Tony Blair calls for probe into Moscow interference in Brexit referendum

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Former Prime Minister Tony Blair

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair

Tony Blair has called on the Government to investigate alleged Russian interference in the Brexit referendum after the publication of the long-delayed report into the Kremlin's involvement in domestic British politics.

Releasing a 50-page document earlier this week, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) warned that Moscow's influence in the UK was the "new normal" and accused successive governments of not wanting to address the issue surrounding the 2016 vote with a "10-foot pole".

Speaking after Boris Johnson dismissed the committee's recommendation of an assessment of potential interference, former Labour prime minister Mr Blair claimed it would be "sensible" for a probe to take place.

"We're still with one of the best security services in the world - you've got to build the capability to investigate what foreign governments are trying to do in interfering with our system and expose it and the more you expose it, the less effective it will be or the less it will happen," he said.

"I think it would be sensible to investigate what has happened but really, the most important thing is to create the capacity for the future, to make sure that you know what's going on in your democratic politics because this interference - and it's only one aspect of cyber-security, by the way - this interference is going to be more and more widespread because the capabilities are much greater."

However, Mr Blair also claimed it would be "foolish" to believe the referendum result itself was a consequence of any interference by Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

"We live in a new world today where cyber-security is going to be a massive, massive question for government and there are governments that want to weaken the west; we know basically why they want to do it, and we've just got to make sure that they are all the time constrained," he added.

According to a poll released by Opinium on Saturday, almost half of the British public (49%) think that Kremlin interfered in the 2016 vote, including 39% of those who voted for Leave and 63% who advocated Remain.

Head of polling at Opinium, Adam Drummond, said: "Although the EU referendum is the most obvious example, what's interesting is the consistent pattern across all election and referendums over the past five years where around half of voters believe that the Russian government interfered with our political process, and this belief is about twice as high among Remain voters as Leave voters.

"That said, the fact that more believe it happened than did not happen and that 66% of UK adults put Russia in the 'threat' category, suggests a degree of political consensus about the problem in the future."

Belfast Telegraph