Dutch authorities accuse Russian Federation of targeting OPCW, MH17 investigation

Read more Vladimir Putin brands poisoned ex-spy Skripal a'traitor and'scumbag

The US Justice Department is charging seven Russian military intelligence officials over the alleged hacking of doping agencies and other organisations.

Canada confirmed Thursday it believes itself to have been targeted by Russian cyber attacks, citing breaches at its center for ethics in sports and at the Montreal-based WADA.

He said the Russian agents were being sent around the world to "conduct brazen close-access cyber operations".

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.Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB spy, said on Wednesday that Skripal, a GRU officer who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain's MI6 foreign spy service, was a "scumbag" who had betrayed Russia.Britain said the GRU was associated with a host of hackers including APT 28, Fancy Bear, Sofacy, Pawnstorm, Sednit, CyberCaliphate, Cyber Berkut, Voodoo Bear and BlackEnergy Actors."This pattern of behavior demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to global law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences", Hunt said.The United States sanctioned GRU officers including its chief, Igor Korobov, in 2016 and 2018 for attempted interference in the 2016 USA election and cyberattacks.Australia and New Zealand backed the United Kingdom's findings on the GRU."Cyberspace is not the Wild West".

The OPCW is the world's foremost chemical weapons watchdog, and in June granted itself new powers to assign blame for attacks despite protests by Russian Federation.

"This pattern of behavior demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to worldwide law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences", UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Thursday in a statement.

Dutch authorities escorted four Russian intelligence officers out of the country hours after the vehicle they had rented was found parked near the OPCW's building in The Hague, its trunk full of gear for hacking WiFi networks.

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Describing the Russian operation as "very worrying", Bijleveld-Schouten said the four men were expelled on April 13, the same day the plot was detected.

Speaking about Russia's hacking attempts into the MH17 crash investigation Thursday, she said: "We have been aware of the interest of Russian intelligence services in this investigation and have taken appropriate measures".

"We want the hundreds of victims of these Russian hackers to know that we will do everything we can to hold these criminals accountable for their crimes", said Scott Brady, US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where the grand jury indicted the Russians.

"The GRU's actions are reckless and indiscriminate", Hunt said.

The OPCW, in turn, was investigating the poisoning of GRU defector Sergei Skripal in which the nerve agent Novichok was used, a bold operation that British authorities dissected in a minute-by-minute surveillance camera montage last month.

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a news briefing that the accusations were the product of someone with a "rich imagination".

Britain's defense minister says a series of global cyberattacks blamed on Russian Federation are the actions of a "pariah state" and that the United Kingdom and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies will expose such activities in the future.

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"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. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their North Atlantic Treaty Organisation counterparts.

"They were clearly not here on holiday", the head of the Dutch intelligence service said on Thursday.

The British National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) also identified numerous hacking groups, including APT28, Pawn Storm, Sandworm, Fancy Bear and the Sofacy Group, as being associated with the GRU.

As well as the World Anti-Doping Agency, GRU undermined transport systems in Ukraine and democratic elections, such as the 2016 USA presidential race, according to the NCSC.

At the time, Russian Federation said the organisation was going beyond its mandate and Industry Minister Georgy Kalamonov said it was like a "sinking ship". "This is the actions of a pariah state, and we will continue working with allies to isolate them; make them understand they can not continue to conduct themselves in such a way", he said.

"This is not the actions of a great power; this is the actions of a pariah state", British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said during a visit to Brussels.

Today, the UK and its allies are once again united in demonstrating that the global community will stand up against irresponsible cyber attacks by other governments and that we will work together to respond to them.

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They said Australia wasn't significantly affected, but the cyber attacks caused economic damage and disrupted civilian infrastructure in other places.

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