NEWS ANALYSIS: The sensational New York Times report that the Russian government offered to pay Taliban operatives a bounty for the killing of US forces in Afghanistan has piled pressure on the UK government to release a key report that it’s been holding back.

While President Trump received an intelligence briefing on Russian actions several months ago, the UK is said to have learned about them 10 days ago. The 29155 unit of the GRU, the military arm of Moscow’s intelligence agency, that tried and failed to assassinate Sergei Skripal and his daughter on UK soil, had responsibility to execute the bounty plan.

Other major destabilisation plans included a failed coup in Montenegro and the poisoning of an arms manufacturer in Bulgaria. More long-term, low-key operations by the GRU include destabilising Moldova. Closer to home, there is considerable evidence that the Russian government has tried to destabilise France by helping Marine Le Pen’s National Front by providing loans and other financial help.

Whether or not the Brexit Party and the Vote Leave campaign in the UK received help, including financial aid, from Moscow as it fought to win a battle for Britain to leave the European Union is a key question that the delayed report is supposed to answer. The fact that its conclusions might seriously embarrass the present UK administration is very likely to be the reason behind the delay in publishing it.

Ultimately, however, even if the report provides hard evidence the Russian involvement in the Brexit campaign was successful,.it can hardly be shown to be a huge success if, as seems likely, the European Union thrives better as a bloc, economically and politically, without the UK.

Meanwhile, a former UK ambassador to Moscow put Russian assassination denials into perspective. Sir Andrew Wood, ambassador from 1995 until 2000, said: “I don’t think it’s the sort of thing made up for propaganda purposes. Of course, the Russians would deny it if Vladimir Putin had been photographed shooting someone in the head.”

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an awards ceremony marking Russia Day in Moscow, Russia June 12, 2020. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin