General Election: Labour's Ben Bradshaw claims he was 'targeted by Russian hackers'

Alexander J Martin, technology reporter

Labour candidate and frequent Putin critic Ben Bradshaw has warned he was targeted by a phishing email from Moscow, raising fears of Russian interference in the British election.

Mr Bradshaw, who is standing for re-election in Exeter, confirmed to Sky News that attachments in a phishing email were not opened by his staff, who were immediately suspicious of claims from an "Andrei Ivanov".

The email claimed to offer documents revealing Russian disinformation efforts, and some of the documents appeared to mention the existence of units in Russia's far east tasked with influencing the UK population.

However, other documents contained malicious code. It is not yet clear what that code was, but forensic analysis could indicate who was responsible for sending the phishing emails.

Mr Bradshaw told Sky News he believed the phishing emails showed how negative it had been for the government to refuse to publish the Intelligence and Security Committee's report into Russian disinformation.

He added his team had passed the attachments on to the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the defensive arm of cyber intelligence agency GCHQ.

A spokesperson for NCSC confirmed to Sky News: "We were recently contacted by Mr Bradshaw and are currently looking at the information we have received."

Similar emails appear to have been received by open-source investigations website Bellingcat and Observer writer Carole Cadwalladr, which may be considered to be hostile to the Kremlin.

The emails were sent from an address at encrypted email service ProtonMail, which is based in the privacy haven of Switzerland.

Andy Yen, ProtonMail's co-founder and chief executive, told Sky News his company would regard any phishing emails being sent from it as an abuse of the platform.

He said: "We do not condone or permit the usage of our service for illegal activities and we are working with the relevant law enforcement authorities to confirm the allegations.

"If confirmed, we will fully assist with any investigation within the framework of Swiss law as we have a zero tolerance policy towards any illegal activity conducted on our platform."

Sky News understands that ProtonMail has proactively sought to contact the NCSC regarding the incident.

Six months ago, the government announced a range of new measures to "safeguard elections" and "crack down on intimidation, influence and disinformation", but it failed to introduce these protections before calling this election.

"Hostile states, foreign lobbyists, and shadowy third parties" could jeopardise the integrity of any election or referendum in the UK, according to the government statement when these safeguards were announced.

This week experts warned that a leak of documents which the Labour Party claimed showed the NHS was on the table in trade talks with the US, resembled a Russian interference campaign.

Last week, Jeremy Corbyn brandished the documents at a press conference and claimed they showed that officials in the UK had spoken to counterparts in the US about a post-Brexit trade deal involving the NHS.

Mr Bradshaw told Sky News he had no concerns about the provenance of the documents.

The other candidates standing in the Exeter seat are Duncan Odgers, UKIP; Joe Levy, Green; Daniel Jon Page, independent; John Nicolas Gray, Conservative and Leslie David Willis, Brexit.