Russia spent millions on secret global political campaign, U.S. intelligence finds

Russia has secretly funded at least $300 million to foreign political parties and candidates in more than two dozen countries since 2014, according to a new US intelligence review.

Moscow plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more as part of its covert campaign to weaken democratic systems and promote global political forces aligned with Kremlin interests, according to a review launched by the Biden administration this summer.

A senior U.S. official who spoke to reporters on Tuesday, as did other officials to discuss the intelligence findings, said the administration decided to release some of the review’s findings in an effort to counter Russia’s ability to influence the political system in European countries. Africa and elsewhere.

“By highlighting Russian covert political financing and Russian efforts to undermine the democratic process, we are putting these foreign parties and candidates on notice that if they secretly accept Russian money, we will and we will expose it,” the official said.

Such activity was identified in countries including Albania, Montenegro, Madagascar and possibly Ecuador, according to an administration source familiar with the matter.

Officials pointed to an Asian country, which they declined to name, where they said the Russian ambassador gave millions of dollars in cash to the presidential candidate. He said Kremlin-linked forces have used shell companies, think tanks and other media to influence political events, sometimes to the benefit of far-right groups.

The US government discovered an increase in Russian covert political financing in 2014, the senior official said. The review did not address Russian activities in the United States.

Both assessed by US intelligence agencies and a Bipartisan Senate investigation Russia, under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, launched a campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to aid then-candidate Donald Trump.

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

Since earlier this year the White House has taken the unusual step of repeatedly releasing declassified intelligence about Moscow’s intentions and actions related to Ukraine, part of an effort to push back Putin’s ambitions and part of a countermeasure to what US officials have described as Russian disinformation operations.

Contact the State Department on Monday It described the alleged Russian activities to US embassies in more than 100 countries and instructed the United States and its allies to take steps to push back, including sanctions, travel bans or the deportation of suspected Russian spies involved in political financing activities.

Cables provided to reporters by officials said Russian political financing was sometimes overseen by Russian government officials and legislators and was carried out by agencies including Russia’s Federal Security Service.

point of view Said to be involved in “financing schemes” with Yevgeny Prigozhin and Alexander Babakov.

Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s chef”, was indicted by US authorities in 2018 after making large sums of money in Russian government catering contracts. Attempts to interfere in the 2016 US election. He is connected to Wagner, a private military company, and is wanted by the FBI.

Babkov is a Russian lawmaker allegedly involved Funding of far-right parties in France.

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

“In the coming months, Russia may increasingly rely on its covert influence toolkit, 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 in the region amid the ongoing war in Ukraine,” it said.

American diplomats are informing counterparts in other countries about these activities, which American officials believe may go beyond the number of recognized nations and amounts.

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

U.S. officials are also asking partner nations to share information about Russian financing to help the U.S. government get a more complete picture of what Russia is up to.

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

“There is no question that we have this vulnerability as well,” the official said.

Paul Sonn in Washington contributed to this report.

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