Published On: Tue, May 15th, 2018

Catalonia crisis: Russia ‘MEDDLED in independence referendum’ | World | News

Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany‘s intelligence service, the BfV, claimed the Kremlin meddled in last year’s Catalan independence referendum.

He said it was “very plausible” Moscow whipped up a campaign of disinformation before the controversial vote last October.

His comments, made at a security summit in Berlin, came as as Catalonia elected a new hardline president to lead its drive for independence.

Quim Torra, a close ally of ex-president Carles Puigdemont, was voted in after Catalonia’s regional parliament approved the move by 66 votes to 65.

In a brief speech after the vote, Mr Torra underlined plans to push ahead with the secessionist agenda of his predecessor.

Mr Torra said: “With a republic, everyone will win rights, nobody will lose rights: these are for everyone, no matter which way they vote.

“The Catalan republic is equality, liberty and fraternity. A Catalan republic means looking towards Europe.”

Mr Puigdemont fled Spain last autumn after the declaration of independence, which went unrecognised internationally.

He is on bail in Germany facing extradition to Spain, where he is wanted on charges of rebellion and embezzlement of public funds.

He faces 30 years in prison if convicted.

Last October, Madrid’s government first made allegations of Russia using social media to meddle in the Catalan separatist cause.

Defence Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal said: “Many messages and operations that were seen via social networks come from Russian territory.

“And I use the correct expression: from Russian territory.

“That’s not to say necessarily that we have determined that it is the Russian government.

“As such, we must act with extreme caution. We have to be clear on the origins.

“They are partly from Russian territory, partly from elsewhere, also outside the EU. We are determining this at the current time.”

Catalan politicians have denied the claims of Russian interference, while Moscow has branded the meddling allegations “hysterical”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was not “a single worthwhile argument to back these claims”.

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