UK sees growing threat from Russian propaganda, cyber-attacks

UK sees growing threat from Russian propaganda, cyber-attacks
FILE PHOTO: Mark Sedwill, the top civil servant at Britain's Home Office leaves the Houses of Parliament after giving evidence at a Commons Home Affairs Select Committee hearing in London July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo
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By Andrew MacAskill

LONDON (Reuters) – Russia poses an increasing threat and is willing to use propaganda, subversion and cyber-attacks to undermine Britain and the rest of Europe, Britain’s national security adviser said on Monday.

Mark Sedwill, who is overseeing a review of Britain’s security services, told a parliamentary committee that Russia is attempting to “sow dissension” and undermine democracy in Britain and other western nations.

He said the threats from Russia included from unconventional warfare such as disinformation campaigns to the dangers posed from an increase in its military capability in the North Atlantic and in Eastern Europe.

“We know that the Russian threat is definitely intensifying and diversifying,” Sedwill said. “The Russian attitude has worsened more generally towards the West and that seems set to continue.”

Britain has been more vocal in recent weeks about the threat posed by Russia at a time when there is growing concern among some members of the ruling Conservative party about the impact of cuts to defence spending.

Prime Minister Theresa May last month in her most outspoken attack on Russia accused the country of meddling in elections and planting fake stories in the media.

The head of Britain’s armed forces said last week trade and the internet are at risk of damage from any Russian attack on underwater communications cables that could disrupt trillions of dollars in financial transactions.

Sedwill accused Russia of planting fake stories in the media about the conduct of soldiers in Eastern Europe, where NATO troops are based to undermine the legitimacy of them being there.

He also accused Russia of meddling in the recent French elections even though he said this had no chance of changing the outcome of the vote.

“It clearly was designed to undermine the citizen’s trust in their systems and we see quite a lot elsewhere,” he said.

(Reporting By Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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