I am today updating Parliament on the ongoing investigations into the leak of the UK-US Free Trade Agreement documents ahead of the General Election in 2019. The Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee has been briefed on the details of this incident.
The Government has robust systems in place to protect the UK against foreign malign influence. These bring together government, civil society and private sector organisations to monitor and respond to interference, to ensure our democracy stays open, transparent and resilient. During the 2019 General Election a cross-Government election security cell was stood up to coordinate responses to threats and hazards relating to the election.
On the basis of extensive analysis, the Government has concluded that it is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 General Election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked Government documents.
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. When these gained no traction, further attempts were made to promote the illicitly acquired material online in the run up to the General Election.
Whilst there is no evidence of a broad spectrum Russian campaign against the General Election, any attempt to interfere in our democratic processes is completely unacceptable. It is, and will always be, an absolute priority to protect our democracy and elections.
There is an ongoing criminal investigation and it would be inappropriate for us to say anything further at this point.
The Government reserves the right to respond with appropriate measures in the future.
The UK will continue to call out and respond to malign activity, including any attempts to interfere in our democratic processes, alongside our international partners. We fully support the recent action taken by our German partners who exposed Russian responsibility for the hack of their Parliament in 2015 as well as their intention to act against those responsible under the cyber sanctions regime. The UK Government laid the statutory instrument for our own cyber sanctions regime on 17 June.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords