Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Dutch ousted Russians for alleged spying attempt to hack Swiss government lab

Ruslan Boshirov left and Alexander Petrov give an interview to the RT news channel Ruslan Boshirov left and Alexander Petrov give an interview to the RT news channel Credit TASS via Getty Images
Jeannette Daniel | 16 September, 2018, 15:02

But on March 26, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that his cabinet had made a decision to expel "two Russian intelligence workers from the Russian embassy" as a result of the Skripal attack, without giving further details.

Isabelle Graber, head of communications at the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) said the agency had "participated actively in this operation together with its Dutch and British partners".

The confirmation came after Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad and Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported that two Russians suspected of being agents of military intelligence service GRU were kicked out of the Netherlands earlier this year as a result of a Europe-wide investigation. She said the agency helped prevent "illegal actions against a critical Swiss infrastructure", and declined further comment.

Shortly after the March attack on the former Russian spy, the U.K.'s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down identified the substance used as belonging to a group of nerve agents known as "Novichoks". Lavrov said earlier this year that the Spiez lab had analyzed samples from the England poisoning investigation.

The Dutch government expelled two alleged Russian spies this year after they were accused of planning to hack into a Swiss chemicals laboratory where novichok nerve agent samples from the Salisbury attack were analysed, it has emerged.

Not only was the lab used to confirm the use of Novichok, it was the same Swiss lab that confirmed the use of another chemical weapon, sarin, in an attack in Syria back in 2013.

Switzerland's Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the attempted attack.

More news: Hurricane Florence Shifts South as Carolinas Hunker Down

"We have had indications that we have been in the crosshairs of hackers in the last few months", said a spokesman for the lab, Andreas Bucher.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the reports, saying he could not believe the arrests would have not have been picked up at the time by the media.

He said no data had been stolen.

The Russian state news agency Tass quoted Stanislav Smirnov, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Switzerland, as calling the Dutch news report 'absurd'.

'We have seen this article and it gives rise to a lot of questions... Russian Federation rejects the allegations by Britain, with Vladimir Putin saying that the two men are just ordinary citizens, according to the BBC.

"Alexander Petrov" and "Ruslan Boshirov", the suspected Salisbury attackers, have been ridiculed after claiming they visited the unlikely tourist destination on the recommendation of friends.

Media reports from the two countries contend that the pair of arrested men worked for Russian Intelligence, and that they were found in possession of computer equipment created to defeat the security of the lab.

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