Theresa May tells Vladimir Putin: We know what you are doing and you will not succeed
Theresa May has launched an outspoken attack on Vladimir Putin's attempts to destabilise western democracies and told him: "You will not succeed."
The Prime Minister said Russia's annexation of Crimea, cyber attacks on Denmark and Germany, and its use of online propaganda and fake news to "sow discord" across the West "threaten the international order on which we all depend".
And she insisted the UK will beef up its cyber security, while working with its allies to take all the necessary steps to repel Russian aggression.
Mrs May's comments, at the annual Lord Mayor's Banquet, are her strongest attack yet on President Putin.
She said: "In a recent speech President Putin said that while the interests of states do not always coincide, strategic gains cannot be made at the expense of others. When a state fails to observe universal rules of conduct and pursues its interests at any cost, it will provoke resistance and disputes will become unpredictable and dangerous.
"I say to President Putin, I agree. But it is Russia’s actions which threaten the international order on which we all depend.
"I want to be clear about the scale and nature of these actions. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe. Since then, Russia has fomented conflict in the Donbas, repeatedly violated the national airspace of several European countries, and mounted a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption. This has included meddling in elections, and hacking the Danish Ministry of Defence and the Bundestag, among many others.
"It is seeking to weaponise information. Deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions.
"So I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us.
"The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise."
Urging President Putin to bring Russia in from the cold, she added: "We will take the necessary actions to counter Russian activity. But this is not where we want to be – and not the relationship with Russia we want.
"We do not want to return to the Cold War, or to be in a state of perpetual confrontation. So whilst we must beware, we also want to engage, which is why in the coming months the Foreign Secretary will be visiting Moscow. For there is another way.
"Many of us here looked at a post-Soviet Russia with hope. Because we know that a strong and prosperous Russia which plays by the rules would be in the interests of the United Kingdom, Europe and the world.
"As permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has the reach and the responsibility to play a vital role in promoting international stability. Russia can, and I hope one day will, choose this different path.
"But for as long as Russia does not, we will act together to protect our interests and the international order on which they depend."