Dutch Ousted 2 Russians Over Alleged Swiss Lab Hack Attempt

Spiez was investigating poison gas attacks by the Assad regime in Syria and the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury

Spiez was investigating poison gas attacks by the Assad regime in Syria and the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury

Switzerland's Federal Intelligence Service confirmed it had taken part in the spring arrest operation along with United Kingdom and Dutch agencies.

Russia's foreign minister said earlier this year that the lab analysed samples linked to the attack on the Skripals in Salisbury.

Unnamed sources close to the investigation told the newspapers that the suspects were in possession of equipment that would allow them to hack into the laboratory.

Dutch authorities arrested and expelled two suspected Russian spies some months ago, for allegedly trying to hack the Spiez Laboratory, Switzerland's government confirmed Friday Sept. 14, 2018, as it summoned the Russian ambassador to protest an "attempted attack".

Spiez, which conducts test for the UN-backed chemical weapons watchdog, near Bern was analysing samples from the March poisoning of the former Russian double agent and his daughter in the UK.

It is not clear exactly when the arrests were made.

"We had several indications that there were some hacking attempts during the last few months", including attempts to plant malware that would spread to other labs, Andreas Bucher, a spokesman for the Spiez Laboratory, said by telephone. Beyond confirming the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service's collaboration, the AG's office did not elaborate further. "The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service participated actively in this operation together with its Dutch and British partners".

He said no data had been stolen.

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"The Swiss authorities are aware of the case of Russian spies discovered in The Hague and expelled from the same place", FIS spokeswoman Isabelle Graber said in an e-mail to AP. 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.

The Dutch military intelligence agency MIVD did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In the article, the head of communications at the lab said he could not comment on the FIS information. The organisation, which monitors compliance with a global treaty on chemical weapons, confirmed the British conclusion that the chemical belonged to a class of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union, known as Novichok.

However, in April Lavrov accused the OPCW of "manipulating" the results of the Skripal probe by omitting findings from the Spiez laboratory.

The two men were arrested in The Hague.

Commenting on the latest reports, Lavrov said "I can not believe that such an event involving three European countries escaped the attention of the media", seemingly inferring that it did not happen.

But the two men in the interview, named by British security services as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, "were not the two agents intercepted" by the Netherlands, the papers said.

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