Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Russian agents planned to spy on Swiss chemicals lab

Russian agents planned to spy on Swiss chemicals lab

Swiss, Dutch and British intelligence worked together to foil the plot directed at the laboratory near Bern, which houses experts in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

The AFP news agency reported on September 15 that the two Russians expelled from the Netherlands are also being investigated by Swiss authorities for an attempted cyberattack on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov responded with derision to reports that two suspected Russian spies had been arrested and expelled, claiming he has received no information from the Dutch government.

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.

The agents had meant to get the data lab in the Swiss Spa, which helps to investigate the chemical attack in Syria and poisoning in Salisbury.

Spiez Laboratory serves as a reference laboratory for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Hague-based body that oversees the global ban on the use of chemical weapons.

Exact details of the alleged agents' arrest are unknown.

The men are believed to have been agents for the Russian military intelligence service, according to Swiss and Dutch media. Beyond confirming the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service's collaboration, the AG's office did not elaborate further.

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But Andreas Bucher, a spokesman for the defence laboratory in the Swiss town of Spiez, confirmed that the laboratory had been the intended target.

The foreign ministry said it summoned the Russian ambassador to Switzerland to demand an "immediate end to spy activities on Swiss territory". He said the lab had taken precautions, and no data was lost.

Bucher cited a case in June where hackers took documents from the lab's website and "distributed a very malicious malware virus" to affiliated agencies.

Spokespeople for the Hague's Prosecutor's office, the Dutch military intelligence MIVD unit and the Dutch prosecutor's office responsible for global investigations all declined to comment on the reports.

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

British police and prosecutors named Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov as the two suspects accused of poisoning the Skripals in Salisbury, Wilts.

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.

On Friday the Kremlin-backed RT news channel aired an interview with Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who the United Kingdom government say carried out the assassination attempt.

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