UK ‘will call Russia out’ on cybersecurity breaches, says Raab

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the UK will “call Russia out” on cybersecurity breaches in the wake of the release of a highly critical report into Russian interference.

Speaking at Chevening House with German minister of foreign affairs Heiko Maas on Wednesday, Mr Raab said both countries were co-operating to hold Russia accountable.

The address follows the release of a report from Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) which found Russia represents an “established threat” in the UK.

The ISC said the Government was slow to recognise the potential threat posed by Russia to British democratic processes and did not properly consider whether Moscow could interfere in the Brexit referendum until after the event.

The report concluded the UK only belatedly realised the threat to political processes despite alarm bells ringing over the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

When asked about the report and the months of delay ahead of its release, the Foreign Secretary said proper practice had been followed.

He told reporters: “We had the election and we needed the ISC to duly form, that’s the proper practice and we followed that.

“The truth is I think everyone can see that from the ISC and the outcomes – we’ve responded to all of those points and recommendations and conclusions in full.”

He added: “There’s clearly an issue with Russian cyberattacks, and I think we’ve said recently in particular, in relation to the attempt which we have now attributed publicly to the Russian intelligence agencies, that we will call Russia out, and I’m talking about the one in relation to vaccine R&D (research and development) in this country but also in America and Canada.

“We will call out Russia, we will hold Russia to account whenever that happens.”

During the 26-minute appearance, Mr Raab and his German counterpart told reporters they had discussed topics including the joint response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as international relations with China and the Middle East.

Mr Raab said: “We have been working together to make sure that China lives up to its obligations and its responsibilities, the most obvious example has been in relation to Hong Kong.

“We’re taking very similar measures in relation to Hong Kong, we’ve been working with our French partners.”

He added: “I think (it) shows you that notwithstanding our departure from the EU, we’ve committed and we’re demonstrating through our deeds, not just our words, the importance of co-operating with our European partners.”

At one point the address, held outside the historic house in Kent, was interrupted by a gust of wind that blew both ministers’ papers from their socially distanced lecterns.

The Foreign Secretary later addressed the collaborative response to the coronavirus pandemic, including in the delivery of PPE and the repatriation of European nationals.

He said: “It has been British and German researchers that have led in vaccine development, while our Governments have also been working together on the global stage to ensure there’s an equitable global distribution.”