Spain’s public broadcaster has inadvertently carried an interview with the exiled Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont after hackers hijacked its online news channel and substituted its content for that of Russia’s state-backed RT network.
The hack, which happened last Thursday, meant Spanish TV’s +24 channel showed RT’s interview between Puigdemont and the former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa.
In the interview – one of RT’s series Conversation with Correa – Puigdemont again insisted “there’s no solution to the Catalan problem that doesn’t involve independence”.
RT’s boss, Margarita Simonyan, appeared to revel in the embarrassment the incident had caused but said the network was not responsible.
“Hackers got into the Spanish +24 channel and switched their transmission for ours,” she said.
“We ended up having an interview with Puigdemont, the main Catalan independence leader. Our transmission lasted the whole evening. We don’t know who did it but it was beautiful.”
According to the Asturian paper El Comercio, which was the first to report the incident, sources at Televisión Española confirmed a hack had taken place.
The broadcaster confirmed that an investigation was under way to determine what had happened but said it was too early to draw any conclusions.
Two years ago, the Spanish government said that many of the false claims on social media about the political crisis in Catalonia appeared to have come from Russian territory.
“It is important that we know that there are certain entities, which may be public or private, that try to interfere in national politics, that try to affect and create unstable situations in Europe,” Spain’s then-defence minister, María Dolores de Cospedal, told a meeting of EU foreign and defence ministers at the time.
Puigdemont, who was sacked by the Spanish government two years ago after organising the illegal Catalan independence referendum, fled to Belgium to avoid arrest.
Spain’s supreme court reissued the international arrest warrant for the former regional president after nine Catalan pro-independence leaders were jailed in October over their roles in the failed attempt to secede from Spain.
On Monday, a court in Brussels announced that Puigdemont’s next extradition hearing would take place on 3 February, once the European court of justice has ruled on whether he should be granted immunity after being elected as an MEP.