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Russia engages in global election interference, US alleges

WASHINGTON: Russia is using its spy network, state-run media and social media to undermine public trust in elections around the world, according to a US intelligence report released on Friday (Oct 20) that was shared with around 100 countries.”Russia is focused on carrying out operations to degrade public confidence in election integrity,” the report said, citing findings from the US intelligence community.”This is a global phenomenon. Our information indicates that senior Russian government officials, including in the Kremlin, see value in this type of influence operation and perceive it to be effective.”The assessment, which was sent in a cable to the embassies of around 100 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.Russia engaged in a “concerted effort” between 2020 and 2022 to undermine public confidence in at least 11 elections across nine democracies, including the United States, the report said.An additional 17 democracies were targeted through “less pronounced” methods involving Russian messaging and social media activity that sought to amplify domestic narratives related to election integrity, it added.Without naming the targeted countries, the report said the US government had shared with them information about the Russian operations.It alleged Russia utilises both “covert and overt mechanisms” to influence elections.That includes influence networks managed by its security agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), which covertly attempted to intimidate campaign workers in an unspecified European country’s 2020 election, it said.Russian state media amplified “false claims of voting fraud” in multiple elections in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America in 2020 and 2021, it added.Russia also exploited social media platforms and “proxy websites” to cast doubt about the integrity of elections in one South American country last year, the report said.”For Russia, the benefits of these operations are twofold: to sow instability within democratic societies, and to portray democratic elections as dysfunctional and the resulting governments as illegitimate,” the report said.The United States recognises its “own vulnerability to this threat,” the report said, reiterating that Russian actors sought to undermine public confidence in the 2020 election which President Joe Biden won against Donald Trump.In a media briefing, a US State Department official said Russia was encouraged to press ahead with election influence operations after its perceived success in spreading disinformation about the 2020 US election and the COVID-19 pandemic.”Russia is capitalising on what it perceives as a relatively inexpensive success in 2020 in the United States to take this more broadly, globally,” the official said on condition of anonymity.”We definitely see the US election as a catalyst.”There was no immediate reaction to the report from the Russian government. 

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