Dutch authorities accuse Russian Federation of targeting OPCW, MH17 investigation

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed charges against seven Russian intelligence officers for hacking various organizations to steal sensitive and embarrassing information, authorities said Thursday.

The charges came as part of a coordinated pushback by allies Britain, The Netherlands, Canada and the United States against a series of hacking attempts by what London dubbed "pariah state" Russian Federation.

Britain says the attack was carried out by GRU officers and nearly certainly approved "at a senior level of the Russian state".

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russian parliament, denounced the accusations as fake, saying they are intended to "delegitimize Russia" and pave the way for using any illegitimate means against it.

The Dutch government accused Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, of targeting the world's chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, through a foiled cyber operation.

Around that time the OPCW was working to independently verify the United Kingdom's analysis of the chemical weapons used in the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury'.

The Russians set up in the Marriott Hotel next door to the OPCW and took photos, while parking the vehicle at the hotel with the boot facing the OPCW, he said.

The men hired a vehicle filled with specialised equipment, including an antenna which was hidden under a coat in the boot, to try and hack the wifi network of the OPCW.

He said one of their mobile phones was found to have been activated near the GRU building in Moscow, while another carried a receipt for a taxi journey from a street near the GRU to the airport. The activities in Malaysia were related to the investigation into the 2014 shooting down of flight MH17 over Ukraine, Bijleveld added. They also showed photos of the men outside the hotel.

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"Such statements by the Foreign Office are nothing but crude disinformation, aimed at confusing the British and world public opinion", they said in a statement.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denies the latest allegations of Russian hacking attempts.

The alleged activities were part of a broad campaign that ran from December 2014 until at least May 2018 and targeted American citizens, US corporations and global organizations based on their strategic interest to the Russian government, officials said.

Welling said that the GRU agents wanted to "intentionally damage world organizations and athletes committed to fairness" by flooding public and social media outlets with the medical records of global athletes and portraying those athletes who actually complied with worldwide anti-doping regulations as cheaters and dopers.

Demers said the operations dating back to 2014 "involved sophisticated, persistent and unauthorised access into the victims' computer networks". In February, as part of Mueller's probe of Kremlin interference in the election, officials announced an indictment of more than a dozen Russian "trolls" who spread information online and of several operatives who travelled to the United States and posed as Americans to whip up protests and stoke political divisions.

When certain remote efforts failed to work, prosecutors detailed how the GRU hackers traveled in some instances using Russian Government-issued diplomatic passports in an attempt to gain access to Wi-Fi networks onsite.

Russian military intelligence service officers (GRU) are accused of the 2016 hacking of the Canada-based World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA); as well as compromising the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, and other sporting federations and organizations. "And that's what happened today", he told reporters in Saskatchewan.

British authorities believe that two GRU agents were behind the nerve-agent attack in Salisbury, in which they tried to kill former double-agent Sergei Skripal.

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