The Hague: 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.
The Russians set up a car full of electronic equipment in the car park of a hotel next to the Organisation for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons in The Hague in a bid to hack into its computer system, it said.
“The Dutch government finds the involvement of these intelligence operatives extremely worrisome,” Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld told a news conference. “Normally we don't reveal this type of counter-intelligence operation.”The Netherlands publicly identified the alleged Russian agents and said the operation was carried out by Russia's GRU military intelligence agency, Dutch officials said.
Britain helped the Netherlands with the operation, they added.
A laptop belonging to one of the four was linked to Brazil, Switzerland and Malaysia. The activities in Malaysia were related to the investigation into the 2014 shooting down of flight MH17 over Ukraine, Bijleveld added.
At the time of the attack the OPCW was investigating the nerve agent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England. Dutch officials said it was not clear if the cyber operation was linked to that. The head of Dutch MIVD intelligence service, Major-General Onno Eichelsheim, told news conference that the men travelled to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on April 4 on Russian diplomatic passports.
An official from the Russian embassy escorted them to The Hague, he said. On April 11 they hired a Citroen C3 and scouted the area around the OPCW all the time being watched by Dutch intelligence.