The government has admitted for the first time that it ‘is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 General Election’.

A written statement from Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, published on Parliament’s website states: ‘On the basis of extensive analysis, the Government has concluded that it is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 General Election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked Government documents.’

There is an ongoing investigation into the leak of the UK-US Free Trade Agreement documents ahead of the December election.

Former Labour leader Corbyn seized on the documents in the run up to the vote, claiming that they proved that Britain was hatching a trade deal with Donald Trump to ‘sell off’ the NHS.

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But the government denied the claims as ‘nonsense’ and launched an investigation with the National Cyber Security Centre after complaining that the material had been circulated by Russians.

Raab’s statement said: ‘Sensitive Government documents relating to the UK-US Free Trade Agreement were illicitly acquired before the 2019 General Election and disseminated online via the social media platform Reddit. When these gained no traction, further attempts were made to promote the illicitly acquired material online in the run up to the General Election.

‘Whilst there is no evidence of a broad spectrum Russian campaign against the General Election, any attempt to interfere in our democratic processes is completely unacceptable. It is, and will always be, an absolute priority to protect our democracy and elections.

‘There is an ongoing criminal investigation and it would be inappropriate for us to say anything further at this point.

‘The Government reserves the right to respond with appropriate measures in the future.’

The statement added that the government has robust systems in place to protect the UK ‘against foreign malign influence’.

It comes ahead of the publication of a long-awaited Russia report next week. The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) unanimously agreed on Thursday morning to publish the report before parliament’s summer recess begins next Wednesday.

Critics have previously accused the government of sitting on the report, pointing to Moscow influence in the Tory party, for nine months.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said that it was ‘nonsense’ to suggest that the information on the general election was now being made public to distract attention from the Russia report.

He said that Raab had been waiting for the establishment of the new ISC – which finally appointed Dr Julian Lewis as Chairman on Wednesday – before deciding to go public with the revelations.

A row erupted this week over the election of Lewis, a Tory MP. He was accused of a ‘coup’ after securing the role over former transport secretary Chris Grayling, who Downing Street had wanted in charge.

Dr Lewis surprised Westminster by putting himself forward and secured a majority by voting for himself, adding to votes from the committee’s four Labour and SNP members. Then in another surprising move the Tory leadership took disciplinary action against Dr Lewis and removed the party whip, effectively expelling him.

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