Russian spies hacked officials to protect doping athletes, United States charges

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, 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. But the accusations deepen Moscow's isolation at a time when its diplomatic ties with the West have been downgraded over the poisoning of an ex-spy in England and it is under USA and European Union sanctions over its actions in Ukraine.

Prosecutors say the Russians also targeted a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company and an global organization that was investigating chemical weapons in Syria and the poisoning of a former GRU officer.

The attack targeted the headquarters of the OPCW in Hague, the global body analysing samples of the Novichok nerve agent that Britain accused Russian Federation of using to try to murder former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

The British ambassador to the Netherlands said that the men caught with spy gear outside The Hague-based OPCW, for example, were from the very same GRU section (Unit 26165) accused by American investigators of having broken into the Democratic National Committee's email and sowing havoc during the 2016 US presidential election.

Four Russian intelligence officers who had entered the Netherlands under diplomatic passports were escorted out of the country after they were found to be carrying out a cyber attack on the OPCW chemical weapons watchdog.

Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld said 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.

They had planned to travel on to a laboratory in Spiez, Switzerland used by the OPCW to analyse chemical weapons samples, he said.

According to the indictment, all seven defendants are members of the GRU, a Russian Federation intelligence agency within the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian military.

In a statement issued Thursday during a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defense ministers, Stoltenberg said "NATO allies stand in solidarity with the decision by the Dutch and British governments to call out Russian Federation on its blatant attempts to undermine global law and institutions".

"They try to undermine and interfere in elections in other countries; they are even prepared to damage Russian companies and Russian citizens", adding the attacks had caused millions of British pounds in damage to national economies.

Russian Federation has consistently denied any involvement in the Skripal chemical attack and the shooting down of MH17.

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.

Moscow has issued the latest in a series of denials, but the allegations leveled by Western intelligence agencies, supported by a wealth of surveillance footage and overwhelmingly confirmed by independent reporting, paint a picture of the GRU as an agency that routinely crosses red lines - and is increasingly being caught red-handed.

The GRU, now officially known in Russian Federation by a shorter acronym GU, is also the agency Britain has blamed for the attack on former GRU spy Skripal with a nerve agent sprayed on his door.

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 behaviour 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.

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

Australia and New Zealand backed the United Kingdom's findings on the GRU.

"Cyberspace is not the Wild West".

Wilson said Russia's actions against the Netherlands-based OPCW in April came as the agency was conducting an independent analysis of the nerve agent used against the Skripals. "By embarking on a pattern of malicious cyber behavior, Russian Federation has shown a total disregard for the agreements it helped to negotiate".