UK PM Boris Johnson clears way for Brexit ‘Russian meddling’ report

An investigation was launched in November 2017, in response to concerns about attempts by Russia to influence the 2016 US presidential election and fears of meddling in Britain’s referendum vote the same year to leave the European Union. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 09 July 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson clears way for Brexit ‘Russian meddling’ report

  • The committee finished the 50-page report in March last year
  • Report was cleared by intelligence agencies in October

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson cleared the way Thursday for a long-awaited parliamentary report into alleged Russian interference in British politics to be published “as soon as possible.”
A government spokesman said parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) will be re-formed next week, and will then be free to publish its findings into concerns about disinformation and meddling in the 2016 Brexit vote.
The committee finished the 50-page report in March last year and the report was cleared by the intelligence agencies in October.
But Johnson failed to authorize its publication before the committee was disbanded ahead of the December general election, and it was then delayed until the committee was restored.
The nominations for the new committee members are expected to be published later Thursday and put to a vote by lawmakers next Monday and Tuesday. The new members will then elect their own chairman.
Committee members have to be approved by the PM.
Johnson’s spokesman said publication of the Russia report “will be a matter for the new committee but we would encourage them to publish it as soon as possible.”
The ISC launched the investigation in November 2017, in response to concerns about attempts by Russia to influence the 2016 US presidential election and fears of meddling in Britain’s referendum vote the same year to leave the European Union.
Then prime minister Theresa May had accused Russia of “planting fake stories” to “sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions.”
The 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English town of Salisbury, which London and its Western allies blamed on Moscow, only added to the ISC’s concerns.
Former ISC chairman Dominic Grieve had accused Johnson of deliberately delaying the report until after the election — something Downing Street denies.
Politicians in the main opposition Labour party have alleged the report could contain evidence of links between Johnson’s Conservative party and Russian billionaires.


French PM pays homage to aid workers killed in Niger

Updated 52 min 58 sec ago

French PM pays homage to aid workers killed in Niger

  • PM Jean Castex sought to assure the parents of the four women and two men that all of France mourned their passing
  • The six, their Nigierien guide and driver, were killed on Sunday in a wildlife haven about an hour’s drive southeast of Niamey

PARIS: France’s prime minister led a memorial service Friday for six aid workers killed in Niger in what investigators said had likely been a premeditated attack targeting Westerners.
As the six caskets lay side by side in the VIP section of Orly Airport south of Paris, where the bodies arrived Friday from Niamey, Jean Castex sought to assure the parents of the four women and two men that all of France mourned their passing.
“In front of these six coffins... I want first of all to express the pain, the incomprehension, the anger of all French people,” said the premier as he saluted the youngsters’ generosity and altruism.
“The victims of this attack came to Niger to do good. They met with evil.”
The six, their Nigierien guide and driver, were killed on Sunday in a wildlife haven about an hour’s drive southeast of Niamey.
The area is a popular destination for weekend leisure trips by Niamey residents, including foreigners.
They worked for French NGO Acted and were aged between 25 and 30.
“This incarnation of evil, France unfortunately knows it only too well... it is very likely the same hatred, the same cowardice, the same inhumanity at work in Niger and Bataclan,” the Parisian concert venue targeted by extremists in 2015, said Castex.
And he stressed there was “no question of giving an inch of ground to criminal fanaticism or to enemies of the freedom to act, think and engage.”
Earlier, a source close to an ongoing investigation by French anti-terror prosecutors told AFP the attack “appears to have been premeditated to target a priori mainly Westerners.”
France’s anti-terror prosecutor’s office said Monday it would probe charges of murder “with links to a terrorist enterprise” and “criminal terrorist association” in relation to the killings.
A team of 11 specialized investigators departed France for Niger the following day.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack carried out by gunmen on motorcycles.
But “given the modus operandi, the terrorist hypothesis is being favored,” the source told AFP.
Suspicion has fallen on Daesh in the Great Sahara, active in the shared border region of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where it is being pursued by France’s Barkhane force fighting extremists in the Sahel.
The French investigation will seek to determine whether the assailants had been tipped off about the humanitarians’ visit to the national park.
French President Emmanuel Macron has described it as “manifestly a terrorist attack” and said there would be repercussions.
“We’re pursuing action to eradicate the terrorist groups, with the strengthened support of our partners,” Macron said.