LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May launched a scathing attack on Vladimir Putin late Monday, accusing the Russian president of undermining the West by meddling in elections and seeking to "weaponize" information.
May's comments represent a contrast to those of President Donald Trump, who has been more vague on the issue of whether Moscow interfered in last year's White House election.
"I have a very simple message for Russia," the British leader said. "We know what you are doing and you will not succeed, because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us."
She told the audience at the Lord Mayor's Banquet in London that "it is Russia's actions which threaten the international order on which we all depend."
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Citing Putin's annexation of Crimea and alleged military involvement in eastern Ukraine, May also accused Russia of "meddling in elections," although she did not mention the U.S. presidential election specifically.
"Russia can, and I hope one day will, choose this different path," she said. "But for as long as Russia does not, we will act together to protect our interests and the international order on which they depend."
Russia, she said, "is seeking to weaponize information, deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and Photoshopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions."
More than 150 million Americans were exposed to Russia-linked material on Facebook and its sister platform, Instagram, in the run-up to Trump’s victory last November, the tech giant admitted earlier this month.
Russia is also accused of running "troll factories," generating and disseminating fake news and propaganda on social media.