No Russian interference in Turkish elections, says ambassador

No Russian interference in Turkish elections, says ambassador

Readers of this column will know that I have written several critical articles on Turkey’s allies and partners. Due to strains in Turkey’s relations with the United States and European countries, this criticism has often targeted Turkey’s Western allies. I have also voiced it whenever I have met representatives of Turkey’s partners in the transatlantic alliance. 

I have recently written articles about cyber-attacks and hackings and the current state of affairs in Turkey in terms of how the government has been handling the issue of Internet oversight. In my article on April 19, the day after it was announced that Turkey will be going to snap elections, I drew attention to possible “electoral meddling from the usual suspect Russia, or even from Turkey’s Western allies.”

“Recent elections in the U.S., Germany and France have been marred by reports of actors trying to influence the electoral process,” I wrote, adding that it “is extremely difficult to trace these actors but the general consensus points to Moscow.”

In response, Russian Ambassador to Ankara Alexei Erkhov has sent me a letter. Below are excerpts of the letter, and I leave it to the readers to be the judge.

“I cannot agree with some of your statements.

“For instance, you state: ‘The links to Moscow of Alexander Kogan, who orchestrated the harvesting of the data, raise further suspicions about Russian involvement.” Who is Alexander Kogan? Where is his link to Moscow? Does the fırst name that sounds Russian imply obligatory connection with Russia? What on earth made you think that Alexander Kogan, an academic based at the University of Cambridge who emigrated from Moldova at the age of seven to the United States, has anything to do with present-day Russia?

“The fact is that ‘Russian involvement’ in the electoral process of any country has never been proved. The ‘general consensus’ mentioned in your article cannot be considered a serious argument, as well as the expression ‘highly likely’ so cherished by the British. Besides, I should stress that it is Russia that constantly reiterates its readiness for large-scale international cooperation in combating cybercrimes - one of the spheres where our Western partners (so prone to accuse us of misusing it) are reluctant to cooperate.

“Frankly speaking, I cannot grasp the point of your next thesis: ‘Russia manipulates the public opinion of the West through the spread of fake news.’ Where are our fakes? Do you believe that arguments and facts we try to expose to the public opinion of foreign countries are not true? Then show it, and we will be able to start a dispute - open and transparent, facts and figures at hand. But let me remind you that some people fırmly believe that fake news is spread not by Russia but primarily by CNN and similar Western media structures. It’s not me who says that. It is the democratically elected president of their own country who accuses American journalists of lies and fake information. By the way, he also strongly denies accusations that Russia helped him be elected.

“And one more thing which I consider important - about intelligence warnings to Turkish offıcials not to be so open with Russian counterparts. I don’t know who your sources are and why they don’t want to be identified (maybe they are simply afraid of being caught in a lie?). Here I can state with all responsibility that since my arrival in Ankara state officials as well as the public at large have always demonstrated their full willingness to hold a business-like, friendly and open dialogue, as well as readiness to discuss with me all the issues that interest our countries. Nobody is afraid of me, quite the opposite.

“Let me conclude by saying that what you write about the alleged ‘electoral meddling from the usual suspect Russia’ has no ground. There was no Russian interference in elections held in the U.S. or elsewhere and there will not be any in Turkey.”

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