British PM May says Kremlin has meddled in Western elections

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Nov. 14, 2017 at 9:43 AM
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Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Echoing claims made in the United States, British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of attempting to destabilize the West by peddling false information and interfering in democracy.

In a keynote address at the Lord Mayor's Banquet in London Monday night, May cited Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, its involvement in conflict in Ukraine, violations of Western European airspace and a campaign of "cyber espionage and disruption" as examples of the Kremlin's efforts to undermine the West.

May also said Russia has meddled in European elections and launched cyberattacks against Denmark's defense ministry and German Parliament.

"I have a very simple message for Russia -- we know what you are doing and you will not succeed," May said in her speech. "You underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us."

May also accused Putin's government of leading an onslaught of "fake" news stories in an effort to "sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions."

The prime minister said Britain and its allies will take the necessary action to prevent a split among NATO countries, and urged Russia to choose a "different path."

May did not cite alleged Kremlin interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but she did acknowledge the United States' role in shaping Western leadership and serving as a flag-bearer for the democratic world.

"The role of the United States in shaping the global order is as vital now as it has ever been," she said. "Of course we will not always agree on each and every course of action. But underpinning this relationship is an alliance of values and interests between our peoples which has been a force for good in the world for generations -- and must continue to be so."

This month, social media giant Facebook said more than 150 million Americans were exposed to Russian-linked material on its platforms during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Moscow has also been accused of running social media "troll factories," generating and disseminating propaganda and phony news stories.

May's aggressive denouncement contrasted with President Donald Trump's comments regarding potential Russian meddling. During his trip to Asia, Trump said he believed Putin's claims that Russia wasn't involved in the U.S. election -- but later said he was "with" U.S. intelligence agencies which have repeatedly said the Kremlin made numerous efforts to intercede.

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