This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
A top Russian diplomat is warning that the United States is on a “dangerous path” and “deliberately inciting tensions in relations between the nuclear powers” by accusing Russian military intelligence of waging a global hacking campaign against Western institutions.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in a statement late on October 4 called on U.S. allies Britain, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands — all of which joined Washington in making the allegations — to reconsider, saying the allegations are a pretext for imposing new sanctions on Russia.
U.S. and Dutch authorities had charged Russian GRU intelligence officers with being involved in an array of hacking attacks against global sports and anti-doping agencies, the international chemical weapons watchdog, a leading nuclear energy company, and other targets.
The Netherlands said it expelled four Russian agents in April over a plot targeting both the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and Dutch investigators looking into the 2014 downing of a passenger jet over Ukraine, while the U.S. Justice Department announced charges against GRU officers who it accused of targeting sports anti-doping agencies and a leading nuclear power developer.
Dutch officials said that the Russian agents had targeted The Hague-based OPCW, which has played a critical role in investigating chemical weapons attacks in Syria as well as the March poisoning with a chemical nerve agent of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England.
In Washington, the U.S. criminal indictment targeted seven GRU officers, including three who had been previously charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for their role in allegedly interfering in U.S. elections.
The indictment said that the Russian agents targeted global anti-doping monitors in the wake of revelations that Russia had engaged in a state-backed doping effort to help its athletes during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
“They cheated, they got caught, they were banned from the Olympics, they got mad, and they retaliated. And in retaliating, they broke the law. They’re criminals,” Scott Brady, U.S. attorney for western Pennsylvania, told reporters.
U.S. prosecutors also said that the Russian hackers targeted the Pennsylvania-based company Westinghouse. A leading developer of nuclear power plants, Westinghouse said it has no evidence that Russia’s hacking attempts were successful.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was meeting with U.S. allies in Europe, said Russia must pay a price for its “worldwide pattern of reckless and irresponsible behavior.”
His call was echoed by his British counterpart, Gavin Williamson, who said: “This is not the action of a great power. These are the actions of a pariah state.”
London has said GRU officers were behind the March attack on Skripal, which also poisoned his daughter, Yulia. The incident caused an international outcry, leading to Western nations expelling dozens of diplomats and deepening tensions between Moscow and the West.
Bijleveld, the Dutch defense minister, said that Russian hackers also targeted files in The Hague’s probe into the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014.
All 298 passengers and crew — most of whom were Dutch — were killed when the jet crashed in an area held by Russia-backed separatists. Dutch-led investigators concluded that the plane was downed by a missile belonging to a Russian military unit.
Russia denies any involvement in the jet’s destruction.
Ryabkov’s statement repeated a pattern of Russia denying serious allegations made by the West and attributing them to a Western plot against Moscow. He said the United States and its allies have “lost any sense of measure and normalcy.”
“The Western spy mania is gathering pace,” the Russian Foreign Ministry had said earlier, with ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova calling the allegations a “diabolical perfume cocktail.”