LONDON (AP) — British lawmakers set up a special group Friday to focus on Russian election interference and disinformation campaigns, saying more must be done to understand the extent of Moscow’s “malign influence.”
Moscow, meanwhile, accused the U.K. of planning an unprovoked cyberattack on Russia.
Britain has accused Russia of using disinformation campaigns to undermine Western democracies. The diplomatic rift between the two countries widened after former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury last month.
Britain’s new Russia Coordination Group unites leaders of several influential parliamentary committees, including those overseeing foreign affairs and defense.
“As unease about Russian malign influence grows, it is essential that we understand the extent of Putin’s activity,” Conservative lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, the group’s chairman, said.
Britain should follow the United States in imposing sanctions on oligarchs and government officials with links to President Vladimir Putin, Tugendhat said.
Russia’s ambassador to London, Alexander Yakovenko, accused Britain of using “offensive cyber capabilities against Russia.”
Yakovenko told reporters that Russia suspected the U.K. was preparing a “massive cyberattack.” He also accused Britain of “destroying all possible evidence” in the Skripal case.
Offering another Russian theory about the poisoning to counter the blame assigned by Britain, he suggested that U.K. intelligence agents might have injected the father and daughter with a nerve agent.
Experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have backed Britain’s finding that the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok, a form of nerve agent first manufactured in the Soviet Union.