Angered by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, British authorities and businesses have spent the last week prying Russian influence from the economy. They have followed a global trend as the conflict unexpectedly unites the international community against Ukraine’s aggressors. But not that long ago, Russia shared similar aims with people living in the UK.
What was Russia’s reaction to the UK leaving the EU?
For the most part, Russians cheered for Brexit as the vote approached in 2016.
Support sprang from its state broadcasters such as RT News, now a pariah in the west, as its commentators, coupled with Russian papers, beamed with excitement.
Western onlookers agreed the Kremlin, rather than regarding the vote as a benefit for Britons, believed it would help foster political fractures in the west.
READ MORE: Boris Johnson branded ‘Putin apologist’ — blamed EU for Crimea
At the same time, he questioned how another referendum would look for British democracy.
Putin said: “Someone disliked the result, so repeat it over and over? Is this democracy?
“What then would be the point of the referendum in the first place and what is the sense of direct democracy?”
The comments were poorly regarded in the UK, as politicians commented on the Russian President’s then fourth term in office and his crackdown on political dissidents.
Did Russia influence Brexit?
Between 2016 and 2017, western officials accused Russia of interfering in their democracies, notably with the 2017 election and Brexit.
Inquiries launched by the US and UK governments sought to explore this, with their findings outlined via highly anticipated reports.
In 2020, British officials released the long-delayed Russia report, which Boris Johnson’s Government had previously sought to block.
The 55-page report concluded that the Government “underestimated the response required to the Russian threat”, adding Russian influence in the UK “is the new normal”.
Authors suggested while the country’s leadership had not corrupted votes themselves, it had influenced the outcome via disinformation campaigns.
The report reserved its most damning conclusions for the Government, accusing it of making a deliberate effort not to investigate Russian influence in the 2016 vote.
Russian officials have long denied attempts to influence the referendum outcome.