Why the stalling on the Russia Report?

Ever since Boris Johnson and the Conservatives gained a sweeping majority in the last election, many have been wondering, now that all the fuss is over, just when Boris might release the Russia report.

The report into Russian influence in the UK’s Brexit vote has been seen by Boris Johnson and yet remains to be seen by much everyone else.

As we saw in America, once Donald Trump was elected 45th president of the United States, an instant cloud of ennui descended on the Republican party who were just happy to have won the election and could now go about trying to enact their own agendas. The same seems to be happening here in the UK as well.

As reported by George Grylls of the New Statesman; after Boris Johnson claimed victory in the general election, he wrote a letter to the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) stating that there was nothing within the Russia report that would pose a threat to national security. This was a green light for the document to be handed over, and for it to be scrutinised by those who needed to know – the security forces who could determine Boris Johnson’s fitness for office and, of course, the general public. Those who “lent” him votes and put him into power.

Despite giving the green light for publication, Boris Johnson has still to give the go ahead and instead, the report has, for the time being at least, been quashed. When the Bureau of Investigative Journalists made a Freedom of Information request for the document, it was refused on the basis that the document was “vexatious,” a term “used for requests which would cause “a level of disruption, irritation or distress.”

It is obvious then that Boris Johnson and his cabinet have thus far refused the publication on the grounds that it would damage their 2019 campaign. Now that the Conservatives have won the election, and once the Covid-19 crisis has passed, will we see the publication of the Russia Report?

It is definitely a hard question to answer seeing that the UK seems uncharacteristically soft on Russia. Bill Browder, human rights activist and creator of the Magnitsky Act, points out that London is floating on a sea of Russia money. It is not an uncommon practice of Russia’s wealthy oligarchs to use estate as a way of laundering dirty money. That is, when it is not being transferred through offshore tax havens through a spiderweb of shell companies.

When the new ISC members have been put in place, and depending on whether or not Boris Johnson tries in any way to influence the ISC membership, we should get a more thorough insight into the Russia Report and may even finally see its publication. But the choice, as ever, is Boris Johnson’s and the government’s to make. Dominic Grieve, a previous member of the ISC and overseer of the Russia Report, has already stated that negotiations with UK’s intelligence organisations (MI5, MI6, GCHQ) regarding the necessary redacting of classified information took place between March and October of 2019.

the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has stated that:

The Russia report had been fully cleared for publication by the committee and by all relevant intelligence agencies before being sent to No 10, sources close to the ISC confirmed, in a painstaking and thorough process that took just over six months.”

Boris Johnson is able, and should now be willing, to release the Russia Report.

The new ISC members should have been duly elected in Easter of 2020 but this has, of course, been put back due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Boris Johnson was handed the report on 17 October, 2019.

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