Russia’s influence reaches deep into the British establishment and successive UK governments have turned a blind eye to it, lawmakers were warned, according to multiple sources familiar with testimony given to a parliamentary inquiry.
Members of the cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) were told that Moscow built up a network of friendly British diplomats, lawyers, parliamentarians and other influencers from across the political spectrum. One witness described the development as “potentially the most significant threat to the UK’s institutions and its ways of life,” according to testimony seen by CNN.
The committee’s unpublished final report into Russian meddling in UK politics, titled simply “Russia,” is at the center of a storm in the UK, where parliament was dissolved on Wednesday ahead of a general election in December. The committee’s chairman, Dominic Grieve, has accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of sitting on the report and claimed Downing Street had given “bogus” explanations for not publishing it.
Opposition politicians have accused the government of a cover-up, saying it could raise awkward questions about the validity of the Brexit referendum in 2016 and expose the alleged Russian connections of some in the ruling Conservative party.
The ISC, which provides oversight of Britain’s intelligence and security agencies, and whose nine members are bound by the UK’s Official Secrets Act, completed its investigation in March. Its report was submitted to Downing Street for approval on October 17, after a lengthy period of clearance with the security services. Sources have told CNN the report includes a heavily redacted annex.
Grieve, a former attorney general who is no longer a member of the ruling Conservative party, told the House of Commons on Tuesday that it was usual practice for Downing Street to approve ISC publications within 10 days. The report may not now be published for months, he said, as ISC reports can only be released when parliament is sitting and the committee is constituted. [Continue reading…]