The Dutch defence minister on Thursday accused Russia’s military intelligence unit of attempted cybercrimes targeting the UN chemical weapons watchdog and the investigation into the 2014 Malaysian Airlines crash over Ukraine.
The Dutch allegations came as British officials blamed Russia’s GRU of increasingly “brazen” activities throughout the globe and for trying to cover up its purported participation in events like the nerve agent poisoning in Britain in March and the shooting down of MH17. Russia has consistently denied any involvement.
Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld said that the GRU’s hacking attempts on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which she said took place in April, were disrupted by authorities. Four Russian intelligence officers were immediately expelled from the Netherlands, she said.
Speaking about Russia’s hacking attempts into the MH17 crash investigation, she said: “We have been aware of the interest of Russian intelligence services in this investigation and have taken appropriate measures.” She added that “We remain very alert about this.”
Britain’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Wilson, said the GRU would no longer be allowed to act with impunity. Britain blames the secretive military intelligence unit for the nerve agent attack in March on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury.
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He said Russia’s actions against the UN chemical agency watchdog came as the agency was conducting an independent analysis of the nerve agent used against the Skripals.
Earlier, British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson branded a series of global cyberattacks blamed on Russia as the reckless actions of a “pariah state,” saying that the U.K. and its NATO allies would uncover such activities in the future.
“Where Russia acts in an indiscriminate and reckless way, where they have done in terms of these cyberattacks, we will be exposing them,” Williamson told reporters in Brussels at talks with U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and their NATO counterparts.
His remarks came after British and Australian officials said the Russian military intelligence unit GRU is behind a wave of global cybercrimes. Britain’s National Cyber Security Center says four new attacks are associated with the GRU as well as earlier cyberattacks.
It cites attacks on the World Anti-Doping Agency, Ukrainian transport systems, the 2016 U.S. presidential race and others as very likely the work of the GRU.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the new accusations Thursday, calling them “big fantasies.”
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British officials have blamed the GRU for the March nerve agent attack on Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury. Russia denies any involvement.
“We are not going to be backward leaning. We are going to actually make it clear that where Russia acts, we are going to be exposing that action,” Williamson said.
“This is not the actions of a great power. This is the actions of a pariah state, and we will continue working with allies to isolate them; make them understand they cannot continue to conduct themselves in such a way,” he said.
Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne issued a joint statement that Australian intelligence agencies agreed that GRU “is responsible for this pattern of malicious cyber activity.” They said Australia wasn’t significantly impacted, but the cyberattacks caused economic damage and disrupted civilian infrastructure in other places.
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