Russia: US intelligence reveals political interference around the world

"Just the tip of the iceberg"
US intelligence report: Russia buys political influence worldwide with millions

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia

US intelligence agencies have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of authorizing political influence abroad

© Alexander Zemlianichenko / DPA

It has been known since the US elections in 2016 that Russia is actively influencing politics abroad. Now a new US intelligence report sheds light on the financial dimensions of influence worldwide.

A report personally requested by the US government on Russian influence abroad is making waves in Washington. The document reveals a new financial dimension, according to which the Kremlin secretly supported political parties and candidates abroad with hundreds of millions of euros. According to the report published by the American secret services on Tuesday Russia sent at least $300 million to more than two dozen countries worldwide since 2014. "The Kremlin and its proxies sent these funds to shape the foreign policy environment in Moscow's favour," says the document.

The sum mentioned is probably only "the tip of the icebergAccording to the report, Russia probably gave even more money, which has so far remained undiscovered.

Russia is said to have covertly funded more than 24 countries

In which countries exactly the sums from Moscow flowed remains open. Russia has relied on state-owned companies and big companies to covertly move funds across a number of regions -- including Central America, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa -- as well as think tanks and foundations specifically active in Europe, according to the report. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent a telegram to embassies around the world on Monday detailing the findings of the intelligence report.

Among other things, the Russian ambassador in an unspecified Asian country is said to have made several million dollars available to a presidential candidate. In addition, a person familiar with the report's findings stated that Russia spent around half a million dollars supporting Albania's centre-right Democratic Party in the 2017 elections. Accordingly, parties and candidates should also BosniaMontenegro and Madagascar – among others through fake contracts and shell companies.

According to the source, Russia has specifically used the EU headquarters in Brussels as a hub for foundations that support far-right politicians. Also will dem Kremlin accused of sending large sums of money to the Russian embassy in Ecuador from 2014 to 2017, apparently with the aim of influencing the elections there.

Moscow is trying to undermine sanctions over the Ukraine war

According to the intelligence report, the global covert operations are being carried out by a range of Russian agencies and individuals, including the FSB domestic intelligence agency, as well as businessmen. The report names two close associates of Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin and Aleksandr Babakovwho are said to have been involved in the influence campaigns. In April, the US Department of Justice accused Congressman Babakov and two other Russian citizens of operating an "international foreign influence and disinformation network."

Russia bought its political influence with cash, cryptocurrency, electronic transfers and lavish gifts, the US document said. In order to disguise the origins, the sums were moved through a variety of institutions - including foundations, think tanks, political consultancies, shell companies and Russian companies. According to the report, funds are also secretly transferred via accounts at the Russian embassy.

With a view to the war of aggression in Ukraine, the US intelligence services warn that in the coming months Moscow could increasingly use its "tools for covert influence" - including secret political financing - in large parts of the world. On the one hand to undermine Western sanctions, on the other hand to "maintain its influence in the various regions even during the war".

US government had requested expert opinion on political interference

Russia's active influence on foreign politics has been well known since the 2016 presidential election in the United States. At that time, the US secret services confirmed that Moscow had interfered in the election campaign in favor of the eventual winner Donald Trump. Methods included cyber operations to spread false information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. According to the secret services, Kremlin chief Putin also had in the 2020 elections authorize a campaignto support Trump's candidacy and discredit his challenger Joe Biden.

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Biden government requested the report on Moscow's influence abroad. This is part of Biden's "democracy summit", which the US President launched shortly after his 2020 election victory. The US State Department issued a release following the report a series of measuresto counteract Russian influence - for example through economic sanctions and travel bans against known "financial influencers". In addition, the US called on its partner to protect itself not only from covert political financing from Russia, but also from "China and other countries that would emulate this behavior".

At a news conference on Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price stressed that Russian interference - like Putin's war on Ukraine - was "an assault on sovereignty". "To combat that, we need to put it in the spotlight in many ways."

Sources: "NYTimes", "CNN", with AFP footage

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