United Kingdom accuses Russia's GRU of organization of worldwide cyber-attacks

Russian President Vladimir Putin right and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu

Russian President Vladimir Putin right and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu

The Dutch announcement came just hours after the United Kingdom blamed the Kremlin for a spate of "reckless and indiscriminate" cyber attacks, including on the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

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".

Prosecutors said the Russians had also targeted a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company.

Thursday's announcement comes after Mueller indicted 12 GRU officers in July for allegedly conducting a "sustained effort" to hack Democrats' emails and computer networks.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the disclosures were "hard evidence" of the activities of the "unacceptable" activities of the GRU which Britain has previously blamed for the Salisbury attack.

"But of course it will go beyond that, and that is why we will be discussing with our allies what further sanctions should be imposed".

Western nations accused Russia's secretive military intelligence unit of new cybercrimes on Thursday, with Dutch and British officials labeling the GRU "brazen" for allegedly targeting the global chemical weapons watchdog and the investigation into the 2014 downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine.

Describing it "very worrying", Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten said the four intelligence officers were expelled on April 13, the same day the plot was detected.

The OPCW has been probing the chemical attack on Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK.

"Here you have evidence of the Russian military launching a cyber attack on the very organisation, the worldwide organisation in The Netherlands, set up to investigate those Novichok attacks", he said.

"The Russian government needs to know that if they flout global law in this way, there will be consequences, they will be exposed, and people will see the Russian government for what they are; which is an organisation that is trying to foster instability throughout the world and that is totally unacceptable".

Dutch intelligence caught four alleged Russian agents with specialist equipment for "close access" hacking of wifi networks that was hidden under a coat in the trunk of their hired Citroen C3 vehicle parked next to the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague in April.

At that point Dutch counter-terrorism officers intervened to disrupt the operation and the four GRU officers were ordered to leave the country.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday Russia must be held accountable for its attempts to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

While the Russians were escorted out of the country, investigators uncovered evidence that they had been preparing to travel on to Switzerland to target the OPCW's laboratory in Spiez.

He said that in the days and weeks which followed the Salisbury attack in March, a group of GRU hackers in Russian Federation known as "Sandworm" had targeted both the Foreign Office and the Defence and Science Technology Laboratory at Porton Down which was investigating the incident.

The Dutch authorities released CCTV images of the four men arriving at Schiphol Airport as well photographs of their passports.

The Dutch Defense Ministry published copies of the passports of the four alleged agents expelled from the Netherlands, naming them as Oleg Sotnikov, 46, Aleksei Morenets, 41, Evgenii Serebriakov, 37, and Alexey Minin, 46.

British police believe two GRU agents, using the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, sprayed the weapons-grade nerve poison Novichok on a door handle at Skripal's home in Salisbury, southern England.

In a British assessment based on work by its National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), Russian military intelligence (GRU) was cast as a pernicious cyber aggressor which used a network of hackers to spread discord across the world.

Among targets of the GRU attacks were the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), transport systems in Ukraine and democratic elections, such as the 2016 USA presidential race, according to the NCSC.

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