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Fri, 14 August 2020

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Russian ambassador rejects claim his country tried to steal coronavirus vaccine and interfere in UK election

Russian ambassador rejects claim his country tried to steal coronavirus vaccine and interfere in UK election

Russian ambassador Andrei Kelin dismissed claims of interference in the UK (BBC)

2 min read

Russia's ambassador to the UK has dismissed claims his country's intelligence services tried to steal research into a coronavirus vaccine.

And Andrei Kelin also rejected allegations "Russian actors" had tried to interfere in last year's general election by "amplifying" stolen documents used by Labour to attack the Government.

On Thursday a joint statement from Britain, the United States and Canada said hackers APT29 had targeted research bodies looking into Covid-19 around the world, including in the UK.

The National Cyber Security Centre said it was more than 95% certain the group, also known as The Dukes or Cozy Bear, was part of Russian intelligence services.

But speaking to BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Kelin said: "I don't believe in this story at all, there is no sense in it."

He added "I learned about their (the hackers) existence from British media. 

“In this world, to attribute any kind of computer hackers to any country, it is impossible.”

And he went on to dismiss a suggestion it would be an "advantage" for his country to know about vaccines being developed, pointing to the fact Russian pharmaceutical company R-Pharm had already entered a partnership with AstraZeneca to manufacture the one being developed at the University of Oxford, should it prove effective.

Moscow’s envoy in London was also asked about the claim by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that Russians almost certainly sought to interfere in the 2019 election via illicitly-acquired documents.

The details of trade talks between the UK and America were used by then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as proof the NHS would be on the table in a post-Brexit deal with America.

But Mr Kelin said: ”I do not see any point in using this subject as a matter of interference.

"We do not interfere at all. We do not see any point in interference because for us, whether it will be [the] Conservative Party or Labour's party at the head of this country, we will try to settle relations and to establish better relations than now.”

His interview comes ahead of the long-awaited publication of the so-called “Russian Report” into interference into UK democracy by Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee.

The new chair of the powerful cross-party group said it will be made public ahead of the Commons going into summer recess on Wednesday afternoon.

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