The British government has accused Russia of conducting espionage campaigns against UK politicians, civil servants, and journalists. The agency it is pointing the finger at is the direct successor to the Cold War-era KGB.
Top of the UK government’s suspect list is the FSB, but that’s a veritable Russian doll of skulduggery if the authorities are right: within the Kremlin’s intelligence wing is the shadowy Center 18, which in turn is believed to be coordinating the movements of another group known as Star Blizzard.
The last of these was accused by the UK government on December 7th of hacking into sensitive foreign policy documents to influence the 2019 elections as well as “spear-phishing [..] parliamentarians from multiple political parties” since at least 2015.
Star Blizzard is also accused of “targeting [...] universities, journalists, public sector, non-government organizations, and other civil society organizations, many of whom play a key role in UK democracy.”
The UK, which issued the statement on its government website, added that Star Blizzard had “selectively leaked and amplified the release of information in line with Russian confrontation goals, including to undermine trust in politics in the UK and like-minded states.”
‘Persistent but unsuccessful’
The campaign is part of what the UK describes as the FSB’s “sustained unsuccessful attempts to interfere in UK political processes” that has allegedly seen it target “politicians, civil servants, journalists, NGOs, and other civil society organizations.”
The UK said it had sanctioned “individuals involved” and “summoned the Russian ambassador” in retaliation.
Two of these were named as Ruslan Aleksandrovich Peretyatko, described as “a Russian FSB intelligence officer and a member of Star Blizzard,” and Andrey Stanislavovich Korinets, aka Alexey Doguzhiev, also designated a member of the group.
Foreign Secretary David Cameron – who served as the UK’s prime minister until he resigned in 2016 over his bungled attempt to silence Eurosceptics within his party by holding the Brexit referendum – described Russia’s alleged attempts to interfere in British politics as “completely unacceptable.”
“Despite their repeated efforts, they have failed,” he said. “In sanctioning those responsible and summoning the Russian ambassador today, we are exposing their malign attempts at influence and shining a light on yet another example of how Russia chooses to operate on the global stage.”
Cameron added: “We will continue to work together with our allies to expose Russian covert cyber activity and hold Russia to account for its actions.”
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