West accuses Russian spy company GRU of ratings of attacks

Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018|9:42 a.m.

BRUSSELS– The United States and other Western nations leveled a gush of brand-new accusations against Moscow’s deceptive GRU military spy firm on Thursday, implicating its agents of hacking anti-doping agencies, airplane crash examinations and a chemical weapons probe as well as introducing cyberattacks that rocked America’s 2016 election and crippled Ukraine in 2017.

The roll-call of GRU malfeasance started at midnight in Britain, when British and Australian authorities accused the Russian firm of lagging the catastrophic cyberattack that triggered billions in losses to Ukraine in June 2017 and a host of other hacks, including the Democratic Party email leakages and online cyber propaganda that sowed havoc before Americans voted in the 2016 governmental election.

Hours later on Thursday early morning, Dutch defense authorities transmitted photos and a timeline of GRU representatives’ botched attempt to break into the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Defense using Wi-Fi hacking devices hidden in the back of a sedan. The chemical weapons watchdog was investigating a Novichok nerve agent attack on a former GRU spy, Sergei Skripal, that Britain has blamed on the Russian government. Moscow has rejected the charge.

The Dutch also implicated the Russian company of attempting to hack into the examination of the 2014 downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine that eliminated all 298 people on board. A Dutch-led investigation group states it has strong evidence that the Buk rocket which brought the plane down originated from a Russia-based military unit. Russia has rejected the charge.

Then came the U.S. government’s turn, with the U.S. Justice Department charging 7 Russian GRU intelligence officers– consisting of the four captured in The Hague– of an international hacking rampage that targeted more than 250 professional athletes, an atomic energy company and a Swiss chemical lab.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis stated the West has “a wide array of actions” offered.

“Basically, the Russians got caught with their equipment, individuals who were doing it, and they have got to pay the piper. They are going to have to be held to account,” Mattis said, speaking in Brussels where he was consulting with NATO allies.

Moscow provided more denials on Thursday, but the accusations leveled by Western intelligence companies, supported by a wealth of surveillance video footage and extremely validated by independent reporting, painted an image of the GRU as a firm that regularly crosses red lines– and is progressively being captured red-handed around the globe.

The U.S. indictment stated the GRU targeted its victims since they had openly supported a ban on Russian professional athletes in worldwide sports competitors and due to the fact that they had condemned Russia’s state-sponsored athlete doping program. U.S. district attorneys said the Russians also targeted a Pennsylvania-based atomic energy business and the OPCW, which was examining possible war crimes in Syria and the March poisoning of Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.

The U.S. indictment says the seven defendants are all Russian people and locals. They include 4 GRU agents expelled last spring from the Netherlands.

They were determined as: Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, 41; Evgenii Mikhaylovich Serebriakov, 37; Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, 32; Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, 30; and Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, 27; who were each assigned to Armed force Unit 26165, and Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov, 46, and Alexey Valerevich Minin, 46, who were likewise GRU officers.

The U.S. indictment says the hacking was frequently carried out from another location. If that wasn’t successful, the hackers would conduct “on-site” or “close gain access to” hacking operations, with experienced GRU members traveling with advanced devices to target their victims through Wi-Fi networks.

The GRU’s alleged hacking efforts on the chemical guard dog firm based in The Hague, Netherlands, took place in April and were interrupted by authorities, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld stated Thursday. Four Russian intelligence officers were immediately expelled from the Netherlands, she said. Those were Minin, Sotnikov, Serebriakov and Morenets.

The British ambassador to the Netherlands said the guys caught with spy equipment outside OPCW were from the extremely exact same GRU area (Unit 26165) accused by American private investigators of having actually gotten into the Democratic National Committee’s e-mail system before the 2016 U.S. election.

On Thursday, Australian and British spies backed the American intelligence neighborhood’s reported attribution of the catastrophic June 2017 cyberattack on Ukraine to the GRU. The harmful software application break out briefly knocked out cash machines, gas stations, drug stores and healthcare facilities and, according to a secret White House evaluation recently cited by Wired, dealt $10 billion worth of damage worldwide.

The hack and release of sports figures’ medical data in 2016 and the downing of Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014 also allegedly bring the GRU’s finger prints. Dutch investigators said the snoopers snatched outside the OPCW also appear to have logged into the Wi-Fi networks near the World Anti-Doping Firm and the Malaysian hotels where crash investigators had gathered to examine the shooting down of guest flight MH17.

Russia’s interests were at stake in both cases. The OPCW was examining the Skripal nerve agent poisoning, which Russia denied, and Russia was being blamed for the shooting down of MH17 over eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces were battling Russia-backed separatists at the time.

The leaders of Britain and the Netherlands on Thursday condemned the GRU for “negligent” and “brazen” activities worldwide and pledged to safeguard crucial international companies from Russian aggressiveness.

“This attempt, to access the safe systems of a global organization working to rid the world of chemical weapons, shows again the GRU’s neglect for the worldwide values and rules that keep all of us safe,” British Prime Minister Theresa May and Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte stated in a joint statement.

Britain’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Wilson, said the GRU would no longer be permitted to show impunity. Britain blames the secretive company for the March poisoning of Skripal and his child.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, individually proven information that matches details for two of the supposed Russian agents named by the Dutch authorities.

An online database for vehicle registration in Russia revealed that Aleksei Morenets, whose full name and date of birth are the very same as one of the Russians expelled by the Dutch, offered his cars and truck in 2004, noting the Moscow address where the Defense Ministry’s Armed force University is based.

Alexey Minin, another Russian whose complete name and date of birth match the details released by Dutch authorities, had numerous cars and trucks, including an Alfa Romeo, that were registered and sold at the address where the Defense Ministry’s GRU school lies. In some of the filings, Minin listed the main military system variety of the GRU school as his home address.

Previously, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson branded a series of global cyberattacks blamed on Russia as the careless actions of a “pariah state,” stating that the U.K. and its NATO allies would discover such activities in the future.

“Where Russia acts in an indiscriminate and careless method, where they have actually carried out in regards to these cyberattacks, we will be exposing them,” Williamson told press reporters in Brussels at talks with Mattis and other NATO officials.

Gregory Katz and Raphael Satter reported from London. Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Raf Casert in Brussels, and Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker in Washington, contributed to this report.

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