Moscow denied what its Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called a “diabolical perfume cocktail” of allegations by someone with a “rich imagination”. But the accusations will deepen Moscow’s isolation at a time when its diplomatic ties with the West have been downgraded over the poisoning of a spy in England and it is under US and European sanctions over its actions in Ukraine.
Dutch authorities said they had disrupted an attempt to hack into the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in April. At the time, the UN watchdog was investigating the poison used to attack an ex-spy in Britain and It was also seeking to verify the identity of a substance used in a chemical attack in Douma in Damascus countryside.
Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld called on Russia to cease its cyber activities aimed at “undermining” Western democracies.
According to a presentation by the head of the Netherlands’ military intelligence agency, four Russians arrived in the Netherlands on April 10 and were caught with spying equipment at a hotel located next to the OPCW headquarters.
The four Russians in the Netherlands were detained on April 13 and expelled to Russia, Dutch Major General Onno Eichelsheim said. They had planned to travel on to a laboratory in Spiez, Switzerland used by the OPCW to analyze samples, he said.
Russian military intelligence “is active here in the Netherlands where a lot of international organizations are (based),” Eichelsheim said.
Earlier on Thursday, Britain released an assessment based on work by its National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which cast Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency as a cyber aggressor which used a network of hackers to sow worldwide discord.
“The GRU’s actions are reckless and indiscriminate: they try to undermine and interfere in elections in other countries,” said British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
“Our message is clear - together with our allies, we will expose and respond to the GRU’s attempts to undermine international stability,” Hunt said.
The GRU, now officially known in Russia by a shorter acronym GU, is also the agency Britain has blamed in the past for sending two agents to England to poison former spy Sergei Skripal with a chemical weapon sprayed in his door.