European Union condemns Russian Federation for cyber attacks by its military

Logo for Russia's GRU intelligence agency

In some of the strongest language aimed at Moscow since the Cold War, Britain said Russian Federation had become a "pariah state".

He said: "This GRU operation was trying to collect information about the MH17 investigation". Some of their mobile phones were also activated in Moscow near the agency's headquarters. 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 USA and European sanctions over its actions in Ukraine.

The address listed, Komsomolsky Prospekt 20, is said to be the address of military unit 26165 of the GRU, which happens to be the team cited in the US Justice Department indictment on Thursday of seven GRU officers for their role in a hacking campaign to discredit anti-doping organizations critical of Russian athletes. Other targets include Westinghouse Electric Corp., a nuclear power company, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and a Swiss lab.

Assistant attorney general John Demers said three of those charged had already been indicted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The accusations were unveiled at briefings around the globe that were held as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defence ministers gathered in Brussels to present a united front to their Cold War-era foe. Russian Federation says the two men Britain blames for the attack were tourists who twice visited Skripal's home town for sighteseeing during a weekend trip to England, a story Britain has dismissed as far-fetched.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, at a news conference in the Belgian capital, said Russian Federation must pay a price, and a number of response options were available.

"This pattern of behavior 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", UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement.

Within hours of the Dutch government's detailed allegations being made public, the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, comprising the intelligence-sharing group Five Eyes, signalled their support.

The Kremlin has consistently dismissed official British allegations. Accusations against Russian Federation "know no limits", said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

Dutch intelligence thwarted a Russian cyber attack targeting the global chemical weapons watchdog in April and expelled four Russian agents, the government said on Thursday.

They claimed that on 13 April Dutch intelligence teams foiled an attempt by four Russian intelligence officers to hack into the OPCW in The Hague, from a rented auto parked in a hotel vehicle park nearby.

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Agents are said to have travelled to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Lausanne in Switzerland, the USA state of Pennsylvania, and The Hague to target the OPCW. Instead, they were expelled to Russian Federation.

The defendants, all Russian nationals and residents, were named as Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, 41, Evgenii Mikhaylovich, Serebriakov, 37, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, 32, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, 30, and Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, 27, and Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov, 46, and Alexey Valerevich Minin, 46.

UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said Russian military intelligence (GRU) used a network of hackers to undermine administrations.

"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.

"It is evident from the allegations in today's indictment that the defendants believed that they could use their perceived anonymity to act with impunity", John Demers, the USA assistant attorney general for national security, said at a press conference announcing the charges.

The OPCW was investigating the poisoning in Britain earlier this year of GRU defector Sergei Skripal, in which the nerve agent Novichok was used. Russian Federation says the two men were sightseers who visited Skripal's home town twice.

Skripal, his daughter and a police officer fell seriously ill and a British woman later died after her partner found the poison in a discarded perfume bottle. Moscow replied with expulsions of Westerners.

A laptop belonging to one of the four was linked to Brazil, Switzerland and Malaysia - while the activities in Malaysia were related to the investigation into the 2014 shooting down of flight MH17 over Ukraine. According to the evidence produced on Thursday at a press conference hosted by Dutch and British officials, this hapless crew used publicly accessible Wi-Fi hotspots, meaning that their login details were easily traceable.

Authorities also accuse the GRU of sustained efforts to breach the computer systems of anti-doping agencies and sporting governing bodies including the International Olympic Committee and soccer's Federation Internationale de Football Association.

The GRU is accused of a catastrophic attack in June 2017 on Ukraine using malicious software that briefly knocked out cash machines, gas stations, pharmacies and hospitals.

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