Russia did not interfere in EU elections, says ambassador
Russia’s ambassador to the EU has categorically denied claims that Moscow used disinformation to sway voters in the recent European elections.
The fierce rebuttal by Vladimir Chizhov, one of Russia’s most senior diplomats outside Moscow, comes after a European Commission review into the parliamentary elections on 23-26 May which saw a mini surge in support for so-called populists and nationalists.
A Commission report, published last Friday, said there was evidence that both Russian and European online sources had sought to promote extreme views and polarise debate on issues such as migration and religion.
The report spoke of “continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russian sources aiming to suppress turnout and influence voter preferences.”
Voter turnout in the elections, at just over 50 percent, was the highest in 25 years.
The preliminary report is the latest in a series of allegations from Western governments that Russia has used online disinformation techniques, including the creation of fake social media accounts, to try to influence voters.
But, replying to a question from this website, Chizhov rubbished the allegations, saying, “Where is the hard evidence?”
He added, “The Commission has produced no specific evidence pointing to Russian interference in these elections. I am not surprised by that because there was no such thing.”
“The Commission has produced no specific evidence pointing to Russian interference in these elections. I am not surprised by that because there was no such thing” Vladimir Chizhov, Russian ambassador to the EU
“The Commission refers to ‘Russian sources’ but that can mean different things and does not amount to hard evidence.”
Turning to the increased support for some right-wing groups in the European elections, the ambassador told The Parliament Magazine, “The outcome of the elections did not come as a big surprise and I have not seen many people in Brussels surprised either.”
“The fact that there was support from certain groups was predicted although the rise of the populists and nationalists was not quite on the scale that some had forecast beforehand.”
Looking to the formation of the new Parliament, he said, “We are prepared to work with the Parliament and hope for cooperation with the Russian federal assembly.”
In a press conference, Chizhov admitted there were “tensions” in current EU-Russia relations, which he pointed out this year celebrate their 30th anniversary. “I would characterise them as abnormal. You could call relations as dormant or frozen,” he said.
He noted that despite some well-publicised differences, Russia is the EU’s fourth-largest trading partner and the EU remains Russia’s largest.
He said, “We are now seeing the renewal of the EU institutions and I look forward to this being an opportunity to inject some impetus into improving relations between the two sides. I must stress that a great number of Member States are still keen on continuing dialogue and interacting with Russia.”
“However, I believe neither Russia or the EU wants a mechanical return to business as usual. What we need is a new paradigm for the partnership. In an increasingly globalised and multi-polar world this is all the more important.”
Any improvement in relations would partly depend on what he called “the silly sanctions” imposed on Russia by the EU in response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
Turning to international affairs, he said, “Our relations with the US are bad and have deteriorated in the last few years.”
He said he hoped the upcoming G20 meeting in Japan would give President Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, a chance to speak directly on a range of issues, including the current crisis in the Gulf of Oman.
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