Unnamed "Russian actors" almost certainly tried to meddle in the December 2019 general election, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced Thursday, citing an "extensive analysis" on the matter.
"It is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 General Election through online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked Government documents," Raab said, speaking before parliament and referring to leaked documents on a controversial planned US-UK free trade deal whose existence was revealed during the race.
"Sensitive government documents relating to the UK-US Free Trade Agreement were illicitly acquired before the 2019 General Election and disseminated online via the social media platform Reddit," he added.
At the same time, Raab noted that there was no evidence at this time of a "broad spectrum" Russian attempt to meddle in the 2019 vote.
"Whilst there is no evidence of a broad spectrum Russian campaign against the General Election, any attempt to interfere in our democratic process is completely unacceptable. It is, and will always will be, an absolute priority to protect our democracy and elections," he stressed.
A criminal investigation into the matter is ongoing, Raab noted, saying it would be "inappropriate to say anything further" except that London reserves the right to respond.
In November 2019, then-Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn revealed details of a 451-page secret Tory plan which he said would effectively "sell" the National Health Service to the United States as part of negotiations on a UK-US trade deal. The documents had apparently been uploaded to Reddit a month earlier. Boris Johnson dismissed the documents' authenticity and accused Labour of making "pure Bermuda Triangle"-style claims.
In the weeks that followed, Reddit said that the leaked documents may have been "part of a campaign that has been reported as originated from Russia." Corbyn called Reddit's statement "nonsense" and continued to suggest that the documents "were real," while refusing to reveal his sources.
UK officials and media have repeatedly accused Russia of interfering in British elections in recent years, claiming that Russian social media trolls have sought to carry out "weaponized information" campaigns to influence potential voters. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations, pointing to a lack of evidence to back them up. Last year, after a lengthy probe, Facebook concluded that there was "absolutely no evidence" that Russia swayed the 2016 Brexit vote using the platform, or even tried to do so in any "significant" way. Earlier, in 2018, Twitter similarly concluded that there was no proof of Russian interference.