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Swiss Confirm Russians Tried To Hack Lab Analyzing Skripal Samples

16 September 2018

Switzerland's intelligence agency said on Friday it had worked with British and Dutch counterparts to foil a Russian plot which, according to newspaper reports, was targeting a Swiss laboratory testing nerve agents such as Novichok. Several Western countries expelled Russian officials, and denounced the attack as a violation of global norms, like Russia's aggression in Ukraine, its interference in other countries' elections, and assassinations and cyber attacks carried out overseas. At the time, OPCW was investigating the Skripal poisoning and chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

The two spies arrested and expelled from the Netherlands are not the same two men that British intelligence services have named as suspects in the Skripal poisoning.

"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.

This had "prevented an illegal action on critical Swiss infrastructure", the FIS said in what is taken to be a reference to the Spiez Laboratory.

In a written statement to The Moscow Times, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland confirmed the newspapers' claim that the two individuals have been under Swiss investigation since March 2017 and their identities are known.

Switzerland's foreign ministry said it summoned Russia's ambassador on Friday to "protest against this attempted attack" and demanded that Russian Federation "immediately" end its spying activities on Swiss soil.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the charges and questioned why it took so long to come to public light.

The Russian state news agency Tass quoted Stanislav Smirnov, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Switzerland, as calling the Dutch news report 'absurd'.

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"We believe that this is a new anti-Russian bogus story made up by the Western media", he said. Russian Federation rejects the allegations by Britain, with Vladimir Putin saying that the two men are just ordinary citizens, according to the BBC.

The Dutch Defense Ministry declined to comment.

The Russian military intelligence agents were intercepted in the Netherlands in March. Russia has been accused of the poisoning of Skripal, who originally worked for Russian intelligence services.

But Andreas Bucher, a spokesman for the defence laboratory in the Swiss town of Spiez, confirmed that the laboratory had been the intended target.

"We have indications of several attacks against our institutions, including possible cyber attacks in the last few months", Bucher said.

Although Spiez Laboratory has not officially acknowledged receiving a sample, it is widely believed to have done so, according to Jean Pascal Zanders, an independent chemical weapons expert based in France.

The spies were arrested earlier this year but their existence has only now been revealed.

Swiss Confirm Russians Tried To Hack Lab Analyzing Skripal Samples