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Russia Calls Spain's Accusations It May Have Meddled In Catalonia Vote 'Hysteria'


Spanish Defense Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal said it was clear that a lot of the messaging on social media around the Catalan vote "came from Russian territory," though a definitive link to the government has not been proved.

Russia has dismissed allegations from Spanish leaders that it may have spread "disinformation" that helped precipitate a crisis over Catalonia's vote for independence last month.

"The Spanish authorities, NATO, and the newspapers did not bring up a single worthwhile argument to back these claims," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on November 15.

"We consider these claims to be groundless, and more likely a deliberate or inadvertent continuation of the same hysteria that is now happening in the United States and a number of other countries."

Western leaders and intelligence agencies have said they suspect Russia sponsored covert campaigns to "sow discord" and influence public opinion in the run-up to major votes in the West since last year, including the 2016 British vote to leave the European Union and the 2016 U.S. election of President Donald Trump.

Spanish leaders on November 14 raised the possibility of Russian "disinformation and manipulation" of public opinion in connection with Catalonia's independence vote, which prompted Madrid to oust and arrest the province's leaders.

Spain's Defense Minister Dolores de Cospedal, speaking at a meeting of European Union foreign and defense ministers, said it was clear that a lot of the messaging on social media around the Catalan vote "came from Russian territory," though a definitive link to the government has not been proved.

"I will raise the question of how disinformation and manipulation around the referendum and subsequent events in Catalonia have developed," Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on November 15 asserted that Madrid was trying to divert attention from Spain's worst political crisis in decades by raising the accusations against Russia.

"Probably they are arranging this kind of scandalous, sensational hysteria in order to distract the attention of their electorate from their inability to resolve their problems at home," Lavrov said during a visit to Belarus.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP
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