World News

West accuses ‘pariah state’ Russia of global hacking campaign

Two of four Russian citizens, who allegedly attempted to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague are seen in this handout picture

open view web desk

LONDON/THE HAGUE/WASHINGTON – Western countries issued coordinated denunciations of Russia on Thursday for running what they described as a global hacking campaign, targeting institutions from sports anti-doping bodies to a nuclear power company and the chemical weapons watchdog.

In some of the strongest language aimed at Moscow since the Cold War, Britain said Russia had become a “pariah state”.

The United States said Moscow must be made to pay the price for its actions. And their allies around the world issued stark assessments of what they described as a campaign of hacking by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.

Russia denied what its Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called a “diabolical perfume cocktail” of allegations dreamt up by someone with a “rich imagination”.

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 and while it is under U.S. and EU sanctions over actions in Ukraine.

Britain and the Netherlands accused Russia of sending agents with wifi antennas to the Hague to try to hack into the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) while it was investigating an attack on an ex-spy in England.

The United States indicted seven suspected Russian agents for conspiring to hack computers and steal data to delegitimize international anti-doping organizations and punish officials who had revealed a Russian state-sponsored athlete doping program.

They were also accused of trying to hack into Westinghouse Electric Co, a nuclear power company that provides atomic fuel and plant designs. The Justice Department said one of the Russians performed reconnaissance of personnel and stole login credentials at the company.

Three of the seven had already been indicted by the special prosecutor investigating allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which Moscow denies.

The various accusations were announced at briefings around the globe that were held as NATO defense ministers gathered in Brussels to present a united front to their Cold War-era foe.

“This is not the actions of a great power, these are the actions of a pariah state,” British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told reporters.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, at a news conference in the Belgian capital, said Russia must pay a price, and a number of response options were available.

EU officials said in a statement Russia’s “aggressive act demonstrated contempt for the solemn purpose” of the OPCW.

Australia, New Zealand and Canada were among other countries to issue strongly worded statements backing their allies’ findings.

Russian officials portrayed the allegations as part of an anti-Russian campaign intended to entrench Moscow’s reputation as an enemy. Accusations against Russia “know no limits”, said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.