A Russian cyber-attack on the headquarters of the international chemical weapons watchdog was disrupted by Dutch military intelligence just weeks after the Salisbury novichok attack, it emerged on Thursday, amid fresh revelations of spying that escalated the diplomatic war between the west and Vladimir Putin.
The incident, which was thwarted with the help of British intelligence officials, came after the Sandworm cybercrime unit of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU had attempted unsuccessfully to hack the UK Foreign Office in March and the Porton Down chemical weapons facility in April.
Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, said on Thursday that Moscow could face further sanctions as a result of an astonishingly detailed evidence trail laid out in the Netherlands, the UK and the US.
Defence secretary Gavin Williamson said Russia was now a “pariah state”, while the Russian foreign ministry dismissed the allegations on Thursday night and claimed the west was gripped by “spy mania”.
Four Russian intelligence officers, believed to have been part of a GRU “cleanup” unit for earlier failed operations, travelled to The Hague on diplomatic passports in April after unsuccessfully launching a remote attack.
At the time, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was investigating the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK, as well as a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria. [Continue reading…]