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Russia 'reversed position on independence post-Brexit'

Russia reportedly backed a split from the UK before Scotland voted against Brexit.

By STV News

Published 12 Jan 2018.

Russia reversed its position on Scottish independence after Scots voted against Brexit, it has been claimed.

A new report on Russian election meddling alleges activists linked to the Kremlin carried out pro-independence "disinformation campaigns" until June 2016.

Russia reportedly switched sides after Scotland voted to stay in the European Union.

The dossier published this week by a group of US senators claims Russia has tried to weaken the EU by backing separatist movements.

It warns the campaign for Catalan independence is a "growing target" for the Kremlin.

"Before Brexit, Kremlin-linked disinformation campaigns were pro-Scottish independence," the report says.

"But after the UK decided not to be in the EU, and many voters in Scotland indicated a desire to stay, the Kremlin changed its stance to anti-Scottish independence."

The report also accuses the Russian-backed media organisation Sputnik, which set up an office in Edinburgh weeks after the Brexit vote, of "undermining support for democracy". Sputnik branded the allegations "lies" in an article published on Thursday.

The report, titled Putin's Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe, was produced by Democratic members of the US Senate's foreign relations committee.

In the preface, senator Benjamin Cardin warns of the Putin regime's "relentless assault" on democracy and accuses President Donald Trump of ignoring the threat Russia poses to the security of the west.

A congressional investigation is under way into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, which Mr Trump denies.

Experts from the Atlantic Council, a US think tank linked to Nato, believe pro-Russian Twitter users promoted false claims of fraud following the independence referendum in 2014.

They say sham accounts artificially boosted petitions calling for a recount of the vote, in which 55% of Scots rejected independence.

The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab believes a number of these accounts were run from a "factory" based in St Petersburg.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed he had no stake in the referendum, however. In January 2014 he described it as a "domestic issue for the United Kingdom" and a "choice for each and every people".