04/05/2019 08:47 EDT | Updated 04/05/2019 08:47 EDT

Chrystia Freeland Says Foreign Interference In Federal Election 'Very Likely'

Well, then.

EPA via The Canadian Press
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers a statement to media in the margins of the G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Dinard, France on April 5, 2019.

DINARD, France (Reuters) - Canada's foreign minister said on Friday it was likely that foreign actors would meddle in her country's October elections and her British counterpart said a deterrent to stop countries like Russia from interfering was critical.

U.S. intelligence officials and the governments of some European Union countries have accused Russia of interfering in their elections in recent years, allegations strongly denied by Moscow.

When asked whether she was worried Russia would interfere in the election, Chrystia Freeland said she was "very concerned".

Stephane Mahe / Reuters
Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney attend a news conference on media freedom as part of the G7 Foreign Ministers' meeting in Dinard, France, April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

"Our judgment is that interference is very likely and we think there have probably already been efforts by malign foreign actors to disrupt our democracy," she said, speaking at a media freedom event on the sidelines of a G7 foreign ministers meeting in France.

Freeland said such attempts were not aimed at securing a particular outcome in a national elections, but to polarize Western societies.

The foreign ministers of the G7 nations - United States, France, Japan, Germany, Britain, Italy and Canada as well as the European Union are meeting in Dinard, Brittany, where they are expected later to agree on common norms that would seek to prevent foreign powers from destabilizing democratic nations.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was imperative for liberal democracies to tackle interference by Russia and others.

Deterring meddling attempts necessary: Hunt

"We know that states like Russia have got a very active, planned, thought-through strategy to interfere in democratic processes in Western countries and (to sow) dissension and chaos wherever they can," Hunt said.

"We are getting much better at fending off these attacks when they happen. What we don't do at the moment is deter them from happening in the first place."

He said the discussions at the G7 on Friday would be aimed at finding a deterrence strategy that imposed a high price for meddling with democratic processes.

(Reporting by John Irish; additional reporting by Julie Carriat; Editing by Richard Lough and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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