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Russian meddling in Catalonia’s secession vote

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The debate in the run-up to crucial regional elections next month on the future of Catalonia is focused on federalism, cultural identity or the future of Spain as a unified country. informs citing the Washington Times that as with the U.S. election last year, the big issue is Russia and what the Kremlin may be doing to feed separatist feelings and generally cause mischief and confusion in a key NATO ally.

What started as anonymously based reports about Russian hackers manipulating online information to favor the independence vote in Catalonia’s Oct. 1 referendum, a vote Madrid tried to suppress as illegal under the Spanish Constitution, has turned into a torrent of official warnings about a presumed Russian master plan to destabilize Spain and other EU countries by egging on budding secessionist movements.

EU leaders have long accused Russia of meddling in their elections and internal affairs through social media campaigns, which are said to have influenced the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the rise of far-right groups in France and Germany.

Fears that Russian hacking could skew the results of Dec. 21 elections in Catalonia, with voters still deeply divided on independence, have been raised by all of Spain’s mainstream parties, including the opposition Socialists, who have called on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other EU leaders to adopt measures to counter Russian meddling.

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said Spain had detected false accounts on social media, half of which were traced to Russia and another 30 percent to Moscow’s Latin American ally Venezuela. The accounts, he said, were “created to amplify the benefits of the separatist cause.”

2017.11.23 / 12:48
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