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September 16, 2018

Swiss probe Russian agents over cyber-attack


September 16, 2018

GENEVA: Two Russian spies arrested in the Netherlands on suspicion of targeting a Swiss laboratory are also being probed over an attempted cyber-attack on the World Anti-Doping Agency, an official said Saturday.

The agents, arrested by Dutch intelligence services earlier this year, were implicated in a planned attack on the Spiez laboratory in Bern, which was investigating the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain, according to Swiss officials and media reports.

The Swiss attorney general’s (OAG) office told AFP on Saturday that the same two individuals have separately been under criminal investigation since March 2017 “due to a cyber-attack against the World Anti-Doping Agency.”

“The proceedings are being conducted on suspicion on political espionage,” an OAG spokeswoman, Linda von Burg, told AFP in an email.

She confirmed that the individuals linked to the alleged hack at WADA’s Swiss office “are those affected by the operation mentioned by the Federal Intelligence Service,” in connection with the Spiez laboratory attack.

The attorney general has asked Switzerland’s justice ministry for permission to prosecute the individuals over the WADA incident, von Burg said.

WADA declined to comment. Tensions between Russian and WADA have been elevated for several years.

The Montreal-based watchdog suspended Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) in 2015 after declaring it to be non-compliant following evidence of a vast plan backed by Moscow to cheat at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

On Friday, WADA announced that its independent Compliance Review Committee had cleared RUSADA to be reinstated.

Russia has admitted shortcomings in its anti-doping programme but has rejected the existence of a state-supported cheating programme.

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