Russia and other countries are trying to exploit the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic to interfere with the way Britain is handling the crisis, U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said today.
Speaking to Sky News, Raab said he didn’t believe foreign interference had impacted Britain’s coronavirus response “in health terms,” but there had been attempts to do so.
“Coronavirus … has created an opportunity or a perceived opportunity [to interfere] through cyber, through other means,” Raab said, adding that “certainly Russia and other countries, and indeed non-state actors, see the challenges that COVID has created and are trying to exploit it.”
Asked why a long-awaited report on Russian interference in U.K. politics by the parliament’s intelligence and security committee had not yet been published, Raab said “it was delayed originally because of the [2019 U.K. general] election” and because parliament wasn’t sitting at that time.
The committee submitted its report to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose approval it needed to publish its findings, on October 17, 2019, saying it “expects to be in a position to publish the report imminently.” Parliament was dissolved on November 6 for the general election.
Raab dismissed the idea that Russia may have had a “material impact” on the election campaign.
“We certainly know Russia is engaged systematically in misinformation and propaganda through cyber and other ways … but I don’t think it had any outcome on the electoral process in the U.K.,” he said.
The EU has previously said that Russia and China have been using the pandemic to spread false reports and other online disinformation. Both have rejected the accusations.