By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday accused Russia of meddling in elections and undermining western institutions.
In her speech at the city of London’s Guildhall during the Lord Mayor’s Banquet – a formal yearly event – May targeted “the scale and nature” of Russia’s actions, saying it was “threatening the international order on which we all depend”.
May said Russia’s “illegal annexation of Crimea” was the first time since the Second World War that a sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe. She said Russia has since fomented conflict in Donbas, mounting “a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption”.
“This has included meddling in elections and hacking the Danish Ministry of Defense and the Bundestag, among many others,” May added, voicing the recent allegations regarding Russia.
“It is seeking to weaponise information. Deploying its state-run media organizations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions.”
“We know what you are doing,” May warned Russia, adding it won’t succeed as it “underestimates 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,” she added.
However, May said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would visit Russia in the coming months, underlining that the U.K. wants to continue dialogue with Russia.
Describing NATO as a vital alliance, May said the U.K. has “stepped up our military and economic support to Ukraine”.
“It is why we are strengthening our cyber security and looking at how we tighten our financial regimes to ensure the profits of corruption cannot flow from Russia into the U.K.,” she said.
May pointed out that they “will take the necessary actions to counter Russian activity”.
“But this is not where we want to be – and not the relationship with Russia we want,” she said as the U.K. did not want to “return to the Cold War or to be in a state of perpetual confrontation”.
May’s speech came as a serious escalation of the U.K.’s warnings about Russia.
She spoke out against Russia’s aggression towards Eastern Europe during her September visit to Estonia.
"As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has the reach and the responsibility to play a vital role in promoting international stability,” May added.
"Russia can, and I hope one day will, choose this different path. But for as long as Russia does not, we will act together to protect our interests and the international order on which they depend," she said.