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Russia spent $300M to influence foreign elections, US says

September 14, 2022

Newly-released intelligence cables have accused Moscow of channeling funds to friendly parties around the world. The US believes "hundreds of millions" in funding is still to come.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia has become increasingly isolated since the invasion of Ukraine in FebruaryImage: Pavel Byrkin/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo/AP/picture alliance

Russia has covertly sent at least $300 million (€301 million) to foreign political parties and candidates since 2014 in a bid to influence world politics, the US State Department said in an intelligence cable that was released on Tuesday.

The report said Russia attempted to gain influence in more than two dozen countries but did not mention specifics.

A government source familiar with the findings alleged that Russia funded Albania's center-right Democratic Party to the tune of $500,000 in 2017, and also bankrolled parties or candidates in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Madagascar.

"We think this is just the tip of the iceberg," one official told reporters on condition of anonymity, and reported on by the news agencies AP and AFP.

Foreign interference expected to increase

The intelligence assessment, which was marked sensitive but not classified, was sent to US missions with talking points for diplomats.

The release of the documents is part of the Biden administration's push to share intelligence about Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in February.

The cable said Russia had a two-pronged strategy of boosting favored candidates' fortunes but also gaining influence inside political parties.

Some of the funds have been allegedly transferred via organizations in Belgium, the Russian embassy in Ecuador, or by way of cryptocurrency.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, officials did not elaborate on how the $300 million figure was calculated, but the document alleged Moscow planned to transfer "at least hundreds of millions more" to sympathetic parties in future in a bid to combat sanctions.

Washington rejects CIA comparisons

Russian officials have long scoffed at US allegations of meddling, noting that the CIA has a long history of backing coups in nations such as Iran and Chile.

The Biden administration rejected any comparison between Russia's alleged bankrolling of foreign political parties to present-day US practices such as funding election monitors and non-governmental pro-democracy groups.

According to AFP, the anonymous official said American assistance is transparent, adding: "We do not support a particular party or particular candidate."

zc/jsi (AP, Reuters, AFP)