A new report says that Russian hacking operations to support Catalonian independence continue and could intensify. The Spanish Defense Ministry’s Center for Strategic and Defense Studies published the report this week. It says Russia is destabilizing Spain as tensions grow in the northeastern region. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy hoped to ease tensions by holding local elections last month. Instead, the voting returned the pro-independence majority to the regional parliament. In another protest of the Spanish government, the party then nominated exiled leader Carles Puigdemont as president. Spanish defense minister Maria Dolores Cospedal, as well as EU and NATO officials, have expressed suspicion about Russian interference in Catalonia.
Cospedal has resisted blaming Russia directly. However, in November she said that the government was examining how thousands of robot accounts supporting Catalonia’s independence operated from Russia.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has accused Spain of trying to “blame Russia for its internal weaknesses.”
Spain has recorded a 2,000 percent increase in social media traffic since Catalans voted for and then declared independence late last year. The Spanish government enforced direct rule over the region after the declaration. It also ordered the arrest of Puigdemont.