ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Dutch and British government in a joint statement on Thursday condemned cyber activities of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, and said they disrupted a Russian cyber-attack on a chemical weapons body.
The Dutch military intelligence, backed by the UK, disrupted a Russian cyber-attack on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Guardian reported.
The OPCW was investigating alleged chemical attacks in Salisbury. The British government blamed the GRU for the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in March.
Additionally, the OPCW has been investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, Russia’s ally, in Douma, Syria on April 7, 2018, al-Hamadaniya, Syria on Oct. 30, 2016, and Karm al-Tarrab, Syria on Nov. 13, 2016.
“Undermining international organizations in our country through cyber operations is unacceptable. The Russian representative in the Netherlands has been summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said on Thursday.
Dutch Defense Minister, Ank Bijleveld, said four intelligence officials had been expelled from the Netherlands after being caught spying on the chemical weapons body in April.
“We have, with the operations exposed today, further shone a light on the unacceptable cyber activities of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU. It has targeted institutions across the world, including the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague,” UK Prime Minister, Elizabeth May, and Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, said in a joint statement.
“This attempt to access the secure systems of an international organization working to rid the world of chemical weapons demonstrates the GRU’s disregard for the global values and rules that keep us all safe,” the statement added.
“The GRU’s reckless operations stretch from destructive cyber activity to the use of illegal nerve agents, as we saw in Salisbury. That attack left four people fighting for their lives and one woman dead,” the joint statement said.
The Dutch and British government said that “our action today reinforces the clear message from the international community.”
“We will uphold the rules-based international system, and defend international institutions from those that seek to do them harm,” they concluded.
The Russian government has denied any involvement in the Salisbury attack.
“I’d like to repeat again that the Russian Federation has had nothing to do with the incident in Salisbury and is not involved in it in any way,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, told reporters on Sep. 20.
“From the very start, Russia has been open to cooperation with London on investigating the Salisbury incident and not because Britain started accusing Russia in abusive terms but because Russian citizens are involved in it,” she added.
Moscow accused the Syrian opposition and al-Qaeda of staging chemical attacks and rejected allegations that Damascus was using chemical weapons in Syria.
According to an Op-Ed by chemical weapons expert, Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, in the Guardian, “Russia continues to deny the use of chemical weapons in Syria, in the face of overwhelming evidence, and has actively prevented the UN investigating such allegations.”
Earlier there were fears chemical weapons could be also used in Idlib, but a Turkish-Russian deal prevented a Syrian government offensive for now.
A spokesperson of the Russian embassy on Thursday rejected the statements by the British government as “another element of the anti-Russian campaign by the UK Government.”
“By the way, it is hardly a coincidence that these accusations appear exactly at the time of NATO Defense Ministers meeting in Brussels and announcements of creating special cyber-attack military units in several Western countries,” the spokesperson argued.
The recent disputes and allegations show the increasingly tense relationship between Russia and the West.
Editing by Nadia Riva