US Says Russia Spent Millions on Covert Global Political Campaign

Russia has secretly given at least $300 million to foreign political parties and candidates from more than two dozen countries since 2014 in an effort to shape political events beyond its borders, according to a new U.S. intelligence review.

According to a review commissioned by the Biden administration this summer, Moscow plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more as part of its covert campaign to weaken democratic institutions and empower global political forces seen as aligned with Kremlin interests.

A senior U.S. official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence findings like other officials, said the administration decided to declassify some of the review’s findings in an effort to counter Russia’s ability to sway political systems in countries in Europe. Africa and elsewhere.

“By shining this light on Russian covert political funding and Russian efforts to undermine democratic processes, we will expose these foreign parties and candidates who secretly accept Russian money,” the official said.

Countries where such measures have been identified include Albania, Montenegro, Madagascar and Ecuador, according to an administration source familiar with the matter.

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

The senior official said the US government detected an increase in Russian covert political funding in 2014. The review did not address Russian activities within the United States.

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Both ratings are US Intelligence agencies and A Bipartisan Senate Inquiry Russia under President Vladimir Putin launched a meddling campaign to help then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Details of the Kremlin’s alleged political influence campaign have been released as the US expands 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 classified intelligence on Moscow’s intentions and actions in Ukraine, part of an effort to push back on Putin’s ambitions there.

A State Department demarche on Monday It described what it said were Russia’s actions to US embassies in more than 100 countries and suggested steps the US and its allies could take to push back, including economic sanctions, travel bans or the expulsion of suspected Russian spies involved in political financing activities.

The cable, which officials released to reporters, said Russian political financing was sometimes overseen by Russian government officials and lawmakers and was carried out by organizations including Russia’s Federal Security Service.

The DeMarch It also named Russian oligarchs it said were involved in “financial schemes”, including Yevgeny Prigogine and Alexander Babakov. Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s chef,” was indicted by U.S. authorities in 2018 after making large sums of money in Russian government catering contracts. It tried to interfere in the 2016 US election. He is linked to the private military firm Wagner and is wanted by the FBI.

Moscow uses cryptocurrency, cash and gifts, often using accounts and sources from Russian embassies, to shape political events in other countries, the cable said.

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“In the coming months, Russia may increasingly rely on its covert toolkit of influence, including its covert political financing, in an effort to undermine the effectiveness of international sanctions and maintain its influence in Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Regions amid the ongoing war in Ukraine,” It said that.

US diplomats are briefing counterparts in other countries about the measures, which US officials believe could go beyond identified countries and amounts.

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

US officials have asked partner countries to share their own information about Russian financing to help the US government gain a more complete picture of what Russia is doing.

While the review doesn’t address Russian influence efforts in the U.S., the senior official acknowledged that it remains a major challenge that must continue to work to protect the U.S. political system and elections.

“There is no doubt that we also have this vulnerability,” the official said.

Paul Sohn in Washington contributed to this report.

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