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Russians tried to hack Swiss lab testing samples from Skripal attack


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Enlarge / This picture, taken on September 14, 2018, shows the Spiez Laboratory, Swiss Federal Institute for NBC-Protection (nuclear, biological, chemical), in Spiez, 40km from the capital Bern, as Swiss newspapers reported that two Russian agents suspected of trying to spy on the laboratory were arrested in the Netherlands and expelled early this year. At the time, Spiez was analyzing data related to poison gas attacks in Syria, as well as the March 4 attack using the nerve agent Novichok on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, Swiss newspapers reported. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Last Friday, Dutch officials revealed that they had arrested and expelled two alleged Russian intelligence agents who were caught attempting to hack into the Spiez Laboratory, a Swiss national laboratory that is home to the Swiss Federal Institute for NBC (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical) Protection.

The Spiez lab was testing two sets of samples that were of interest to the Russian government on behalf of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW): the “Novichok” agent used in an attack in the UK against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia and samples from a poison gas attack in Syria. The OPCW’s headquarters is in The Hague in the Netherlands, which may explain why the attack on the Spiez lab was launched from there.

The incident, reported both by Joep Dohmen of the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad and by Thomas Knellwolf and Titis Plattner of the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, occurred this spring. The circumstances of the arrests were not shared. An investigation carried out jointly by the two papers found that the pair were arrested as the result of a joint operation by multiple European intelligence services in Europe, including the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD). The Swiss intelligence service, the NDB, issued a statement confirming a “case of Russian spies discovered in The Hague and then expelled.”

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