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Another US Indictment Links Bitcoin to Covert Russian Intelligence Activity

Another US Indictment Links Bitcoin to Covert Russian Intelligence Activity

Four Russian intelligence officers who had entered the Netherlands under diplomatic passports were escorted out of the country after they were found to be carrying out a cyber attack on the OPCW chemical weapons watchdog. The United States said Moscow must be made to pay the price for its actions.

Moscow issued more denials on Thursday, but the allegations levelled by Western intelligence agencies, supported by a wealth of surveillance footage and overwhelmingly confirmed by independent reporting, painted a picture of the GRU as an agency that routinely crosses red lines - and is increasingly being caught red-handed around the world.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, speaking about the British and Australian claims, said that the allegations had been mixed together "indiscriminately".

Russia's embassy to London said in a statement that British accusations that Russian spies were behind global cyber attacks lacked proof and were part of a crude disinformation campaign.

The incident - just weeks after the attempted poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal - led to the expulsion from the Netherlands of a four-man team from Russia's GRU military intelligence service.

Britain has also blamed the GRU for the poisoning of Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a military-grade nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

The UK and the Dutch held a joint press conference with their defence minister and the British ambassador, the British and Dutch prime ministers issued a joint statement, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general also had a statement ready.

The EU described these acts as an "aggressive act [that] demonstrated contempt for the solemn objective of the OPCW, which works to eradicate weapons worldwide under a United Nations mandate".

WADA recently reinstated Russia's Anti Doping Agency RUSADA
WADA recently reinstated Russia's Anti Doping Agency RUSADA

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in a statement late on October 4 called on USA 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 Russian Federation.

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 authorities searched a rental vehicle belonging to the men and found laptops with incriminating web history, maps, phones, cash, and an antenna that they determined had been pointed at the OPCW. They were expelled to Russian Federation.

In Ottawa, Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said: "I'm told that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has charged seven Russian agents with involvement in this process and that the RCMP are also involved and assisting". Reuters was not immediately able to contact them.

Russian military intelligence (GRU) used a network of hackers across the world to attack a wide range of targets, including the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Netherlands and the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said.

"The defendants believed they could use their anonymity to act with impunity in their own countries and on the territories of other sovereign nations to undermine worldwide institutions and to distract from their government's own wrongdoing", Demers said.

All the attacks were already linked to Russian Federation but this is the first time Britain has linked them to the GRU, Moscow's primary military intelligence outfit.

"That's a hell of a mix for a perfume", she told reporters, in an apparently mocking reference to the fact that the Novichok nerve agent used on the Skripals was contained in a fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle.

"The attempt to compromise the networks of the OPCW is consistent with Russia's broader attacks on the independence and professionalism of the personnel of the OPCW".

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