Sunday, 13 June, 2021

Who is the GRU, the Russian intelligence service that is panicking Europe

The Netherlands expelled four GRU spies, accused of launching massive cyber attacks. Close-up on a service already implicated in the Skripal affair.

FBI Wanted Notice Against Seven Russian GRU Agents

If this isn’t a new Cold War, it is seriously starting to look like it. The Netherlands announced Thursday (October 4th) that it had expelled four Russian military intelligence agents (GRU), who had tried to hack the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague. The story is a subtle blend of Tom Clancy’s novel and Pieds Nickelés blunders. On April 13, Russian agents had positioned a vehicle lined with electronic equipment in the parking lot of a hotel near the OPCW headquarters, in order to hack its computer system of the institution via its wifi network. The OPCW had notably worked on the Skripal affair, this ex-Russian agent poisoned last March in England, and on the chemical attacks of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

The problem is that the four Russian spies were under surveillance by the Dutch authorities, who arrested them as soon as the hacking attempt started. This allowed the Dutch investigators to make astonishing discoveries: one of the Russian agents had kept the invoice for a taxi ride between a street adjacent to the GRU headquarters in Moscow and the airport. One of the group’s cell phones, which officers tried to destroy upon arrest, had also been activated near the GRU headquarters.

European counterattack

The analysis of one of the laptop computers of the fine team has finally lifted the veil on the missions of the Russian agents. According to the data collected, the GRU had also carried out a recent mission in Malaysia, in order to destabilize the investigation into the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, probably destroyed by a Buk missile fired by pro-Russian separatists. GRU hackers also reportedly hacked into the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee during a recent stay in Lausanne. A similar mission was planned in Switzerland, with the Spiez laboratory, a specialist in biological and chemical threats, in sight.

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