The EU chief took to Twitter today to say: “Putin’s agents tried to influence the US election. We need to know if they interfered in the #Brexit vote too.”
His comment comes after it was revealed last week the British Parliament could launch an inquiry asking Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms for information about Russian efforts to influence the European Union referendum last June.
Even Leave.EU members have backed an investigation, claiming it was “beyond laughable” that Russia had any influence on the vote.
But Mr Verhofstadt’s remark has sparked fury among Brexit supporters online who accused the EU itself for causing the leave vote on June 23.
One Twitter user said: “They didn’t – and the result WILL NOT CHANGE.”
Another said: “The UK Gov’t and civil service influenced #Brexit, with phoney statistics and claims of gloom and doom… but they still lost.”
One added: “I doubt it, but you did. Your one of the main reasons for voting out.”
A fourth tweeted: “No, that one is down to other factors which the EU needs to address especially as ignoring A2 of Lisbon treaty and ECHRA by UK & Spain.”
And another asked if Russia was a “convenient scapegoat or actual threat”.
In April this year, a report from a committee of MPs revealed a deep concern about allegations of foreign interference in last year’s vote.
While the committee did not identify potentially responsible parties, MPs noted that both Russia and China used an approach to cyber-attacks based on an understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals.
And the document alleged that there were clues that a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS) using botnets – a network of computers infected with malicious software – was used to overwhelm the government site as thousands signed up to vote minutes before the deadline.
The report said: “The crash had indications of being a DDOS ‘attack’. We understand that this is very common and easy to do with botnets… The key indicants are timing and relative volume rate.”
The findings follow repeated claims that Russia has been involved in trying to influence the US and French presidential elections.
The calls for an inquiry come after it was revealed the US probe into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election could see the first charges announced today.
The investigation will enter a new phase as prosecutors led by Robert Mueller obtained a grand jury indictment against at least one person who will be charged and taken into custody, it has been revealed.