Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, rejected allegations that hackers linked to the country’s intelligence services targeted British coronavirus vaccine research, and accused Britain of cyber attacks against Russia.
Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre said on Thursday that vaccine and therapeutic sectors in multiple countries have been targeted by a group known as APT29, which it said is “almost certainly" part of Russian state intelligence. Security agencies in the US and Canada later backed the findings.
Kelin said Russian officials had discovered “several cyber attacks" originating from the UK during the country’s recent constitutional referendum, which paved the way for President Vladimir Putin, to remain in power to 2036. He said Russia isn’t “accusing the United Kingdom as a state," but declined to give further details.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Kelin’s claims have “no credibility," describing the allegations to the BBC as “chaff being put out to distract from the very serious charges we are laying."
Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee will publish a long-awaited report on Russian interference in elections and espionage this week. “I’m not quaking in my boots about it," Raab told Times Radio on Sunday when asked if any British officials will be implicated in the report.
The UK has stepped up its criticism of Beijing and Moscow as it seeks to establish a place for itself in the world after Brexit.
“We are not slipping into some dogmatic approach either way," Raab said. Asked if the UK and China are still in a “golden era" of diplomatic relations, Raab replied, “It’s not a phrase I would use."
Raab said he would make a statement to Parliament on Monday on whether to suspend the extradition treaty with Hong Kong after Beijing imposed a national security law on the former British province. The UK has already offered a path to citizenship for Hong Kong citizens. On Tuesday, he will meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in London.
Meanwhile, Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming warned Raab that if he seeks to impose sanctions on any individuals in China, there will be a “resolute response."
“You have seen what happened between China and the United States," Liu said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “They sanctioned Chinese officials, we sanctioned their senators, their officials. I do not want to see this tit-for-tat between China-US happen in China-UK relations. I think the UK should have its own independent foreign policy rather than dance to the tune of the Americans, like what happened to Huawei."
TikTok suspended talks to build a global headquarters in the UK, and Communist Party officials in Beijing have warned British companies doing business in China they’re set to face retaliation over the government’s decision to stop working with Huawei Technologies Co., the Sunday Times reported.