Russia Accused Of Cyberattack On Global Chemical Weapons Watchdog

Dutch military intelligence claimed they expelled a group of Russians after disrupting a cyberattack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

According to BBC News, the alleged operation was put together by Russia’s GRU military intelligence and targeted the chemical weapons watchdog in The Hague in April.

The OPCW has been investigating the chemical attack on a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom. The British government previously blamed the GRU for the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, which happened in Salisbury in March.

And now, Dutch security services have revealed that they thwarted the cyberattack on the OPCW with the help of British officials, as part of a “push-back against alleged Russian cyber attacks” around the globe. The Netherlands has also summoned the Russian ambassador, asking for an explanation.

The announcement comes after the allegations that the cybercrime unit of the GRU Russian military intelligence directorate also tried an attack on the Porton Down chemical weapons facility near Salisbury in April and on the U.K. Foreign Office in March. They were unsuccessful both times.

The Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten said four intelligence officials from the GRU’s cybercrime unit (also known as Sandworm) were kicked out of the country after being caught spying on the chemical weapons body earlier in the year.

“By revealing this Russian action, we send out a clear message: Russia must stop this,” Bijleveld-Schouten said.

The four agents, who had been traveling on official Russian passports, were reportedly caught red-handed and immediately deported to Russia, The Guardian said.

This is not the first time the Kremlin has been accused of cyberattacks, and the U.K. government has claimed the GRU was behind four high profile cyberattacks this year, with targets ranging from the U.S. Democratic Party to a small TV network in the U.K.

British prime minister Theresa May and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a joint statement that they wanted to send a “clear message” to the international community.

“This attempt to access the secure systems of an international organisation working to rid the world of chemical weapons demonstrates the GRU’s disregard for the global values and rules that keep us all safe. The GRU’s reckless operations stretch from destructive cyber-activity to the use of illegal nerve agents, as we saw in Salisbury.”

“Our action today reinforces the clear message from the international community. We will uphold the rules-based international system, and defend international institutions from those that seek to do them harm,” the statement said.

The Russian government has deemed the accusations a “diabolical cocktail” of allegations.

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