Russia's efforts to sow discord in the West will not succeed, and they are already prompting Western allies to work together to counter Moscow's meddling, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has said.
In an annual address to the Lord Mayor's Banquet in London late on November 13. May cited a list of recent Russian actions that she said "threaten the international order," from Moscow's illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in 2014 to its recent attempts to "weaponize information" through cyberattacks and leaks in Europe and the United States.
Moscow is "deploying its state-run media organizations to plant fake stories and photoshopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions," she said.
"So I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed."
May told Russia, "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."
The Russian Foreign Ministry on November 14 called May's accusations "irresponsible and baseless," and said they were intended to distract the British public from domestic problems.
"British society is not going through the best of times due to the process of the country's departure from the European Union and an internal schism," spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
"It is quite clear that to distract public opinion, an external enemy is needed, and Russia has been picked."
May's blunt language targeting the Kremlin contrasted with U.S. President Donald Trump's friendly remarks over the weekend about Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Trump said told him Russia did not meddle in last year's U.S. presidential election as U.S. intelligence agencies have claimed.
Despite having to navigate a difficult exit from the European Union mandated by a close referendum vote last year that British agencies are now investigating amid allegations of Russian interference, May in her speech sought to reaffirm Britain's ties with the EU.
She said London "will take the necessary actions to counter Russian activity" through the NATO alliance and other ties. "The U.K. will remain unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe's security," she said.
Even as Britain exits the EU, she added, "the comprehensive new economic partnership we seek will underpin our shared commitment to open economies and free societies in the face of those who seek to undermine them."
She also vowed to strengthen cybersecurity and tighten financial rules to stop the "profits of corruption" from being invested in Britain by Russian oligarchs.
At the same time, May said Britain must stay engaged with Russia. She noted that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will visit Moscow in the coming months.
"We do not want to return to the Cold War, or to be in a state of perpetual confrontation," she said, adding that there was "another way."
"Many of us here looked at a post-Soviet Russia with hope...because we know that a strong and prosperous Russia which plays by the rules would be in the interests of the United Kingdom, Europe, and the world," she said.
"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."
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters