LONDON — Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed Russia is capable of “all sorts of dirty tricks” but there is no evidence that it has targeted the UK.
He made the comments on ITV politics shows “Peston on Sunday” after The Sunday Times newspaper reported that intelligence officials at GCHQ have called an emergency summit with political parties to warn of the dangers of Russian cyber attack akin to that on the Democratic Party in the US.
Johnson did not dispute that there is evidence of Russian hostility, but said there is no proof it has yet reached Britain.
He cited the hacking and publishing 20,000 Democrat emails during the US election and the attack that led to French TV network, TV5Monde, falling off air in April 2015.
“There is very little doubt that the Russians are behind these things,” he said ahead of a visit to Russia, where he will meet Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. He is the first UK foreign secretary visit to the country since 2012.
Johnson said: “We have no evidence that the Russians are actually involved in trying to undermine our democratic process at the moment. We don’t actually have that evidence.
“But what we do have is plenty of evidence that the Russians are capable of doing that. And there is no doubt that they have been up to all sorts of dirty tricks.”
The Sunday Times revealed that Ciaran Martin, the head of Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, has written to all political parties to warn of the dangers of Russian hacking.
“You will be aware of the coverage of events in the United States, Germany and elsewhere reminding us of the potential for hostile action against the UK political system,” he is reported to have said.
“Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond (political parties) and can include attacks on parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals’ email accounts.”
Labour MPs, including Ben Bradshaw, are pushing the government to reveal what it knows about Russian interference in British democracy.
“I was very suspicious about the UK government’s reticence in talking about this,” Bradshaw told Business Insider last month.
“Our government clearly knows more than they’re letting on and I think it’s slightly suspicious that they’re not being more open about it. In fact, they’re being less open than any other Western democracy has been.”
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