Russia accused of targeting chemical weapons watchdog

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on a new wave of global cyberattacks blamed on Russia (all times local):


5:50 p.m.

A top Russian diplomat says Western allegations of cybercrimes by the Russian military intelligence are part of a multi-pronged campaign to vilify Moscow.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by Interfax as saying that the claims are intended to cast Russia as an enemy. He said the U.S. and its allies "lost the sense of measure and normalcy," and that they will keep making new accusations against Russia "so that the issue stays hot."

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday charged seven Russian military intelligence officers with hacking anti-doping agencies and other organizations. Britain and the Netherlands accused the Russian GRU military intelligence of a series of global cybercrimes.

Ryabkov said Russia has no intention to interfere in the midterm elections in the U.S. or meddle elsewhere.


5:15 p.m.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has welcomed a U.S. indictment of Russians accused of hacking sports organizations and releasing athletes' medical records.

WADA says the alleged hackers "sought to violate athletes' rights by exposing personal and private data - often then modifying them - and ultimately undermine the work of WADA and its partners in the protection of clean sport."

WADA says it was "pleased to collaborate" with the investigation and has tightened up security since it was hacked in 2016.

WADA, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the Canadian anti-doping agency were all named as victims in a U.S. Department of Justice indictment against seven Russian intelligence agents that was unsealed Thursday.

Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. anti-doping agency and a prominent critic of Russian athletes' drug use, says "a system that was abusing its own athletes with an institutionalized doping program has now been indicted for perpetrating cyberattacks on innocent athletes from around the world."


4:30 p.m.

The highest court in world sports says it is "good to know" that Russian hackers who allegedly attacked its website during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics have been identified.

The Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport processed dozens of doping and Olympic eligibility cases involving Russian athletes in the days before and during the games held Aug. 5-21 two years ago.

A U.S. Department of Justice indictment against seven Russians unsealed Thursday alleged they registered a fake domain similar to the one for the sports court's official website and two suspects "conducted online reconnaissance efforts targeting CAS email accounts."

In a statement, the court said its "servers were resistant enough to ensure data protection."

The indictment says defendant Ivan Yermakov also targeted a hotel chain that operated the Rio property where the sports court had a dedicated Olympic tribunal.


4 p.m.

A senior Russian lawmaker has lashed out against new Western claims of alleged cybercrimes by the Russian military intelligence, saying they are intended to smear Russia.

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday charged seven Russian military intelligence officers with hacking anti-doping agencies and other organizations. Britain and the Netherlands condemned the Russian GRU military intelligence for a series of alleged global cybercrimes.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russian parliament, denounced the accusations as fake, saying they are intended to "delegitimize Russia" and pave the way for using any illegitimate means against it.

He argued that the West has picked up the GRU as "a modern analogue of the KGB which served as a bugaboo for people in the West during the Cold War."


3:50 p.m.

The global chemical weapons watchdog that was targeted by Russian hackers says it "takes very seriously the security of its information systems and networks."

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says in a statement that its director general was briefed Thursday by Dutch authorities about the Russian hackers who were foiled in April and expelled from the Netherlands.

The OPCW says that since early this year it "has observed increased cyber-related activities" and "undertaken measures to mitigate them."

The organization, which oversees the global convention outlawing chemical weapons, is headquartered in The Hague.


2:10 p.m.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the United States stands ready to help its NATO allies amid allegations that Russia's intelligence services launched a series of cyberattacks.

After talks with NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday, Mattis said: "We are ready today to provide cyber-support to our allies. That is now."

He did not say if the offered capabilities would be used in response to British and Dutch claims that Russia's GRU attempted cyberattacks on the international chemical weapons watchdog and other targets.

Mattis backed their allegations, saying: "I've seen enough of the evidence to say the Dutch and the British are 100 percent accurate in who they've attributed this to."

Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark also offered offensive cyber-capabilities to NATO.


12:25 p.m.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned Russia to halt its "reckless" behavior amid a series of global cyberattacks blamed on Moscow, and says NATO allies stand united behind the U.K. and Dutch governments.

In a statement issued Thursday during a meeting of NATO defense ministers, Stoltenberg said "NATO allies stand in solidarity with the decision by the Dutch and British governments to call out Russia on its blatant attempts to undermine international law and institutions."

He said that "Russia must stop its reckless pattern of behavior, including the use of force against its neighbors, attempted interference in election processes, and widespread disinformation campaigns."

The 29 allies are discussing cybersecurity at talks in Brussels, with the U.S., Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands due to announce that they will provide offensive cyber-capabilities for use by NATO.


The Dutch defense minister on Thursday accused Russia's military intelligence unit of attempted cybercrimes targeting the international chemical weapons watchdog and the investigation into the 2014 Malaysian Airlines crash over Ukraine.

The Dutch allegations came as British officials blamed Russia's GRU for allegedly "brazen" activities worldwide the globe and for trying to cover up its alleged participation in the nerve agent poisoning of an ex-spy and the downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine. MH17. Russia has consistently denied involvement in the events.

Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld said that the GRU's alleged hacking attempts on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons took place in April and were disrupted by authorities. Four Russian intelligence officers were immediately expelled from the Netherlands, she said.

Speaking about Russia's hacking attempts into the MH17 crash investigation, she said: "We have been aware of the interest of Russian intelligence services in this investigation and have taken appropriate measures."

"We remain very alert about this," she said.

Britain's ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Wilson, said the GRU would no longer be allowed to act with impunity. Britain blames the secretive military intelligence unit for the nerve agent attack in March on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury.

He said Russia's actions against the Netherlands-based OPCW came as the agency was conducting an independent analysis of the nerve agent used against the Skripals.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the new accusations Thursday, calling them "big fantasies."

Earlier, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson branded a series of global cyberattacks blamed on Russia as the reckless actions of a "pariah state," saying that the U.K. and its NATO allies would uncover such activities in the future.

"Where Russia acts in an indiscriminate and reckless way, where they have done in terms of these cyberattacks, we will be exposing them," Williamson told reporters in Brussels at talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their NATO counterparts.

His remarks came after British and Australian officials said the Russian military intelligence unit GRU is behind a wave of global cybercrimes. Britain's National Cyber Security Center says four new attacks are associated with the GRU as well as earlier cyberattacks.

It cites attacks on the World Anti-Doping Agency, Ukrainian transport systems, the 2016 U.S. presidential race and others as very likely the work of the GRU.

"We are not going to be backward leaning. We are going to actually make it clear that where Russia acts, we are going to be exposing that action," Williamson said.

"This is not the actions of a great power. This is the actions of a pariah state, and we will continue working with allies to isolate them; make them understand they cannot continue to conduct themselves in such a way," he said.

Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne issued a joint statement that Australian intelligence agencies agreed that GRU "is responsible for this pattern of malicious cyber activity." They said Australia wasn't significantly impacted, but the cyberattacks caused economic damage and disrupted civilian infrastructure in other places.


Gregory Katz in London and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.