Published: Fri, October 05, 2018
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Justice Dept. files charges against 7 Russian intelligence officers

Justice Dept. files charges against 7 Russian intelligence officers

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte released a joint statement that stated in part: "This attempt to access the secure systems of an worldwide organisation working to rid the world of chemical weapons demonstrates the GRU's disregard for the global values and rules than keep us all safe". "By revealing this Russian action, we have sent a clear message: Russia must stop this". The accusations were backed by other Western countries including the United States, which said Moscow must pay a price.

Moscow accused the West of "spy mania" after Dutch security services said they had thwarted a Russian cyber attack on the OPCW.

At a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday, Dutch officials briefed their counterparts on the latest probe.

British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said that these were "not the actions of a great power, this is the actions of a pariah state". Russian Federation must pay a price and a number of response options were available, he said.

'The Dutch cabinet is very concerned that the OPCW was the target of an interception by the Russian military intelligence service, ' Bijleveld said.

The Russians set up a auto full of electronic equipment in the vehicle park of a hotel next to the Organisation for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons in The Hague in a bid to hack into its computer system, it said. The OPCW was investigating the poisoning of a former Russian intelligence official in Salisbury, U.K., as well as looking into chemical weapons used in Syria.

As part of its disinformation effort, the operatives in some cases paired the leaks with posts and comments that parroted themes used by the Russian government to push back against the anti-doping agencies' findings, officials said.

Maj Gen Eichelsheim said the group were planning to travel to Switzerland, to a laboratory in Spiez where the OPCW analysed samples. They were expelled to Russian Federation.

The defendants, all Russian nationals and residents, were named as Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, 41, Evgenii Mikhaylovich, Serebriakov, 37, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, 32, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, 30, and Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, 27, and Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov, 46, and Alexey Valerevich Minin, 46. Reuters was not immediately able to contact them.

The team of four GRU officers travelling on official Russian passports entered the Netherlands on 10 April.

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They hired a auto and parked it in the vehicle park of the Marriot hotel in The Hague, which is next to the OPCW office, to hack into the OPCW's wifi network, Major General Onno Eichelsheim from the Dutch MIVD intelligence service said.

In a series of coordinated announcements, authorities in the US, UK, the Netherlands and Australia have accused the Russian military intelligence agency GRU of a huge array of cyberattacks around the world.

The latest developments comes after Britain accused the Russian military intelligence agency of a spate of cyber attacks, from the hack against the 2016 United States elections to the leaking of top athletes' medical records.

Four officers from Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU, were caught "in flagrante" in a joint Dutch-UK operation on April 13, according to Whitehall officials.

Skripal, his daughter and a police officer fell seriously ill; a woman later died after her partner found the poison in a discarded perfume bottle.

The aim, the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said, was to illustrate to Putin that the price for this activity is too high.

After the Skripal poisoning, the West agreed with Britain's assessment that Russian military intelligence was to blame and launched the biggest expulsion of Russian spies working under diplomatic cover since the height of the Cold War. Moscow replied with tit-for-tat expulsions of Westerners.

Dutch and Swiss media reported in September that two Russians were arrested in April in The Hague after trying to hack into the OPCW headquarters.

Britain's National Cyber Security Center says four new attacks are associated with GRU as well as earlier cyberattacks. The US is especially concerned about hackers interfering with November's midterm elections.

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