Russians ejected over bid to hack Swiss laboratory
GENEVA — Dutch authorities arrested and expelled two suspected Russian spies months ago for allegedly trying to hack a Swiss laboratory that conducts chemical weapons tests, Switzerland’s government confirmed as it summoned the Russian ambassador to protest an “attempted attack.”
Moscow rejected the accusation, the latest Western claim about Russian spying and other acts of interference. This time, the alleged target was the Spiez Laboratory, which analyzed samples from the March poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.
The Swiss confirmation came after Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad and Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported that two Russians suspected of being agents of military intelligence service GRU were kicked out of the Netherlands this year as a result of a Europewide investigation.
Tages-Anzeiger said the two men were arrested in The Hague during the spring. Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service did not provide details, but said it worked “actively” with British and Dutch partners on the case.
“The Swiss authorities are aware of the case of Russian spies discovered in The Hague and expelled from the same place,” FIS spokeswoman Isabelle Graber said in an email. She said the agency helped prevent “illegal actions against a critical Swiss infrastructure,” and declined further comment.
The Swiss attorney general’s office said “two individuals” involved in the alleged hacking emerged during a broader investigation of alleged “political espionage” that was opened in March 2017.
Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry said it summoned Russia’s ambassador to “protest against this attempted attack” and demanded that Russia “immediately” end its spying activities on Swiss soil.
The Russian state news agency Tass quoted Stanislav Smirnov, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Switzerland, as calling the Dutch news report “absurd.”
“We believe that this is a new anti-Russian bogus story made up by the Western media,” Smirnov was quoted as saying. “It is absurd, just new groundless allegations.”
Spiez Laboratory spokesman Andreas Bucher declined to comment on the events in the Netherlands, but said the lab had taken precautions and no data was lost.