Monday, 12 November, 2018

Russian agents 'tried to spy on Swiss chemicals lab'

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption"Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town
Steven Clarke | 16 September, 2018, 15:00

Two "Russian spies" arrested in the Netherlands were reportedly plotting to hack a Swiss lab investigating the Salisbury poisoning.

But on March 26, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that his cabinet had chose to expel "two Russian intelligence workers from the Russian embassy" as a result of the Skripal attack, without giving further details.

Dutch intelligence services declined to comment when contacted by AFP, saying "we don't give information about operations".

FILE PHOTO: A police officer guards a cordoned off area of Queen Elizabeth Gardens, after it was confirmed that two people had been poisoned with the nerve-agent Novichok, in Salisbury, Britain, July 5, 2018.

Two Russian intelligence agents were planning to break into the computer network of Spiez Laboratory, Switzerland's main laboratory for analyzing chemical weapons, according to accounts published Friday in Swiss and Dutch media.

"We have indications of several attacks against our institutions, including possible cyber attacks in the last few months", Bucher said. No data have been stolen from the lab, he adds. Sturgess died, but no one has been charged in that case.

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The agents were allegedly targeting the Spiez Laboratory which has in recent months investigated toxic gas attacks in Syria and the March nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, in the United Kingdom city of Salisbury. Russian Federation has denied that these two men have anything to do with the Skripal case.

Although Spiez Laboratory has not officially acknowledged receiving a sample, it is widely believed to have done so, according to Jean Pascal Zanders, an independent chemical weapons expert based in France.

The newspaper reports said the alleged Russian plot had gone beyond cyberattacks and that authorities found "equipment used for espionage" during their operation against the suspected spies.

"Alexander Petrov" and "Ruslan Boshirov", the suspected Salisbury attackers, have been ridiculed after claiming they visited the unlikely tourist destination on the recommendation of friends.

"I cannot suppose that such an occurrence, in which the specialists of three Western countries participated, could remain out of the field of view of the mass media", Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters after meeting with his German counterpart in Berlin, Russian news agencies said. According to a report in April by the Russian news agency TASS, Lavrov received information "confidentially" that Spiez found traces of US chemical warfare agents in the samples.

However, in April Lavrov accused the OPCW of "manipulating" the results of the Skripal probe by omitting findings from the Spiez laboratory. In June, a conference hosted by the lab was targeted by hackers using a destructive worm that was first released during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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