The UK says Russia’s intelligence service is behind ongoing attempts to interfere in British democracy

LONDON — Russian intelligence services have targeted prominent British politicians, civil servants and journalists with cyber espionage as part of years-long attempts to interfere in U.K. politics, the British government said Thursday.

According to the Associated Press, the State Department said that Russia’s FSB agency was responsible for a series of cyber espionage operations in the United Kingdom, including targeting British lawmakers from multiple parties from at least 2015 until this year and selectively leaking and amplifying sensitive information to advance its interests. Russian interests.

Foreign Office Secretary Leo Docherty told lawmakers that a cyber group known as “Star Blizzard” or Callisto Group, which British cybersecurity officials believe was “almost certainly affiliated” with the FSB unit, created fake identities to pose as legitimate contacts and then delivered a malicious message. connection. For the victims.

“They have been targeting high-level individuals and entities with one clear aim: to use the information they obtain to interfere in British politics,” Docherty said.

He added, “The goal of this group is not limited to politicians, but rather includes public figures and institutions of all kinds.” “We have witnessed impersonation scams and attempts to hack email accounts in the public sector, universities, media, NGOs and civil society in general.”

Authorities said the group was responsible for the 2018 hack of the Statecraft Institute, a British think tank that works to defend democracy against disinformation, and for hacking and leaking trade documents between the United States and the United Kingdom ahead of the 2019 British general election.

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The government said the aim was to “undermine confidence in politics in the UK and like-minded countries”.

The Foreign Office said: “Although some attacks led to the leak of documents, attempts to interfere in UK politics and democracy have not been successful.”

He said that the United Kingdom on Thursday imposed sanctions on Ruslan Alexandrovich Beretyatko, an intelligence officer in the Russian Federal Security Service, and Andrei Stanislavovich Korenets, a member of Star Blizzard, for their involvement in so-called phishing operations.

The US Department of Justice separately announced on Thursday that it had brought criminal charges against Beretyatko and Korenets in connection with the hacking plot.

In addition to being charged in the 2019 hack and email dump ahead of the 2019 UK elections, US officials also allege that they and other unidentified conspirators targeted the accounts of US government officials, including current and former employees from the US. Departments of Defense, State, and Intelligence Community.

The British Foreign Office said that the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom was summoned to express Britain’s concerns about the interference. Russian officials did not immediately comment on these accusations.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in a statement: “Russia’s attempts to interfere in UK politics are completely unacceptable and seek to threaten our democratic processes.” Despite their repeated efforts, they failed.”

Asked whether British officials had discovered the full extent of the cyber interference, Docherty said he was confident, but stressed that officials would remain vigilant ahead of next year’s UK general election.

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