Russia says it has proof of Western influence in its upcoming election

Spokeswoman warns of 'tough countermeasures'

By EMMA BURROWS AND TIM LISTER, CNN
Russia 24 via CNN

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

MOSCOW (CNN) - Russia said Thursday that it has "concrete proof" that Western nations have attempted to interfere in its presidential election next month.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova offered no proof but said that "destructive interference" had taken place "within the context of the presidential election campaign."

Zakharova said the government's accusations were based on solid evidence, "unlike unsubstantiated allegations of all-powerful Russian hackers and some Russian influence on elections in other countries."

She warned that Russia would take "tough countermeasures, including a public reaction" if the interference did not stop.

Russia has been accused of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election as well as Britain's referendum on the European Union. It has denied those allegations.

Earlier this week, Dan Coats, US director of national intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that "there should be no doubt" Russia also sees the 2018 midterm elections as a target.

Coats, who was testifying along with other top national security officials, said he expects "Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence, to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States."

On Wednesday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration is "actively working" on imposing sanctions on Russia over its interference in the 2016 election.

Russia has called the threat of US sanctions a "direct and obvious attempt" to interfere in its March 18 presidential election.

"We do think that this is a direct and obvious attempt to time some sort of action to coincide with our elections in order to influence them," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on a telephone conference call last month. "We disagree with this, and we are sure this will have no influence."

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