In her Lord Mayor’s banquet speech, Theresa May accused Russia of meddling in “our democracies”. But just over a week earlier, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson essentially said the opposite. So who’s telling the truth? The Prime Minister, or the man who was photographed having lunch with a ‘professor’ named by an FBI informer as a go-between to Russia?
May accuses Russia
At the banquet, May said:
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.
Get the news that really mattersSign me up
Boris says otherwise
Asked recently if Russia had been interfering in voting, meanwhile, Boris Johnson replied: “I haven’t seen any [evidence], not a sausage… As far as I know they have played no role.”
Continue reading below...
This was specifically in response to a question about the investigation by the Electoral Commission into the financial arrangements of Leave.eu funder Arron Banks. Banks himself has said that: “Allegations of Brexit being funded by the Russians… are complete bollocks from beginning to end.”
The company you keep
But that’s only half the story. Because in October, Johnson was photographed at a Conservative Party event standing next to Joseph Mifsud – a Maltese academic, ‘London professor’, and director of the now defunct London Academy of Diplomacy.
Photo surfaces of Boris Johnson with Joseph Mifsud.
The "London professor" named in FBI docs who's now gone to ground..
..and who Boris specifically denied meeting.
(H/t to @gavinsblog for top digging.) pic.twitter.com/jJwRsLfs9k
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) November 11, 2017
Mifsud allegedly tipped off George Papadopoulos, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, about ‘dirt’ on US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. But Mifsud denies this. Papadopulos, meanwhile, is currently providing evidence as part of the FBI inquiry into alleged links between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to court documents, Mifsud was the main contact between Papadopoulos and the Kremlin.
The Foreign Office told crowdfunded journalism site Byline that Johnson had never “knowingly met this person [Mifsud], planned to meet this person, or indeed ever heard of this person”.
In September 2016, however, a ‘high ranking’ person with the Foreign Office did reportedly meet with Papadopoulos. And the Foreign Office has also confirmed that another minister, Tobias Ellwood, met Papadopoulos at the UN general assembly.
Yet another photo
Theresa May accuses Russia of interfering in elections…
Boris meets with Prasenjit Kumar & Joseph Mifsud, named by FBI as having Russian links.
Boris meets Sergey Nalobin, expelled from Britain for running Russian front group.
Prasenjit Kumar meets Theresa May… pic.twitter.com/nxYpqS2GYr
— Matt Thomas #GTTO (@Trickyjabs) November 13, 2017
The 2016 EU referendum vote may have been skewed by the deployment of thousands of Twitter bots. Vote Leave, fronted by Johnson, paid millions of pounds to AggregateIQ, a firm that specialises in “audience persuasion”. The Guardian also claims that a Russian spy targeted former Vote Leave head Matthew Elliott via the Conservative Friends of Russia.
Clearly, there are many unanswered questions. But May and Johnson definitely appear to be divided over alleged Russia meddling. And they can’t both be right.
Featured image via Wikimedia
Since you're here ...
We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.