May 29, 2024

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US says Russia spent millions in secret global political campaign

US says Russia spent millions in secret global political campaign

Russia has secretly transferred at least $300 million to foreign political parties and candidates in more than two dozen countries since 2014 in an effort to shape political events outside its borders, according to a new US intelligence review.

Moscow planned to spend hundreds of millions of additional dollars as part of its covert campaign to weaken democracies and bolster global political forces seen as aligned with the interests of the Kremlin, according to the review, commissioned by the Biden administration this summer.

A senior US official, who like other officials spoke to reporters on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence findings, said the administration decided to declassify some of the review’s findings in an effort to counter Russia’s ability to influence political systems in countries in Europe, Africa and elsewhere.

“By highlighting secret Russian political finance and Russian attempts to undermine democratic processes, we are letting these foreign parties and candidates know that if they secretly accept Russian money, we can and will expose it,” the official said.

Countries where such activities were identified included Albania, Montenegro, Madagascar and possibly Ecuador, according to an administrative source familiar with the matter.

Officials pointed to an Asian country, who declined to be named, as saying that the Russian ambassador had given millions of dollars in cash to a presidential candidate. They said that forces linked to the Kremlin have also used front companies, research centers and other means to influence political events, sometimes for the benefit of far-right groups.

The senior official said the US government saw a slight increase in Russian covert political funding in 2014. The review did not address Russian activities inside the United States.

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Ratings by all of us spy agencies and Bipartisan Senate investigation It concluded that Russia under President Vladimir Putin launched a campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to aid then-candidate Donald Trump.

The release of details of the Kremlin’s alleged political influence campaign comes as the United States expands its military support for Ukraine in its war against Russia, now in its seventh month.

Since early this year, the White House has taken the unusual step of repeatedly releasing declassified intelligence about Moscow’s intentions and actions regarding Ukraine, as part of an effort to fend off Putin’s ambitions there and counter what US officials have described as Russian disinformation.

Monday Foreign Ministry statement US embassies in more than 100 countries described alleged Russian activities and suggested steps the United States and its allies could take to respond, including sanctions and travel bans or the expulsion of suspected Russian spies involved in political finance activities.

The cable, which officials provided to reporters, said that Russian political funding was at times overseen by Russian government officials and lawmakers, and carried out by bodies including the Russian Federal Security Service.

orgasm It also mentioned the names of Russian oligarchs who said they were involved in “financing schemes”, including Yevgeny Prigozhin and Alexander Babakov.

Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s chef” after making huge sums in Russian government catering contracts, was commissioned by US officials in 2018. Attempting to interfere in the 2016 US election. He has been linked to Wagner’s private military company and is wanted by the FBI.

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Babakov is a Russian lawmaker allegedly involved in the A . case Funding a far-right party in France.

The cable said that Moscow has used cryptocurrencies, cash and gifts to shape political events in other countries, often using accounts and resources of Russian embassies to do so.

In the coming months, Russia may increasingly rely on its own set of clandestine influence tools, including covert political financing, in Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia in an effort to undermine the effectiveness of international sanctions and maintain influence in these regions amid its ongoing war in Ukraine. .

US diplomats brief their counterparts in other countries on activities that US officials believe could bypass the countries and amounts identified.

“We believe this is just the tip of the iceberg,” the senior official said. “So instead of sitting on the sidelines, we’re sharing these response actions.”

US officials are also asking partner countries to share their own information about Russian funding to help the US government get a fuller picture of what Russia is doing.

While the review did not address Russian influence efforts in the United States, the senior official acknowledged that this issue remains a major challenge that requires continued work to protect the American political system and elections.

“There is no doubt that we also have this vulnerability,” the official said.

Paul Sonn in Washington contributed to this report.