A look at suspected Russian plots abroad _ and the plotters
MOSCOW (AP) — Hacking computer networks, poisoning, election meddling — it’s hard to keep track of all the Russian spies and agents suspected of committing crimes abroad on the Kremlin’s behalf.
The latest development: Investigative group Bellingcat has revealed new information about a Russian doctor accused of the nerve agent poisoning in Britain in March.
These Russians aren’t just suspected of interfering in foreign elections or attacks on foreign soil. Western authorities believe Russian spies are working to thwart international investigations into Moscow’s past wrongdoing.
The Kremlin denies everything, calling it a Western smear campaign against Vladimir Putin’s resurgent Russia.
A look at some key plots and groups of alleged plotters:
Two Russian military intelligence officers are suspected of using nerve agent Novichok to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain in March. The attack prompted new Western sanctions on Russia and fears of a stepped-up Kremlin campaign against its enemies outside Russia’s borders.
British authorities published the passports that the two officers used to enter the U.K., apparently under assumed names: Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
Bellingcat investigators reported Monday that Petrov is in fact Alexander Mishkin, a doctor who works for Russian military intelligence agency GRU. The group had earlier identified Boshirov as decorated GRU agent Anatoliy Chepiga.
Russia’s government, and the suspects themselves, deny involvement in the poisoning.
PARKING LOT HACKERS
Four other Russians are suspected of trying to hack into the world’s chemical weapons watchdog — which just so happened to be investigating the Skripal poisoning, as well as the widely believed use of chemical weapons by Syria’s Russia-backed military.
The four were arrested, and Dutch authorities revealed last week how they found a car full of hacking equipment near the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. Dutch authorities say they were trying to infect the agency’s Wi-Fi network, and identified them as GRU agents.
Russia’s foreign minister says they were ordinary officials on a routine trip.
Research by The Associated Press and other media has found apparent links between the GRU and the four men, identified as Alexei Minin, Yevgeny Serebryakov, Alexei Morenets and Oleg Sotnikov.
Those four Russians — and three others — are also suspected of cyberattacks aimed at disrupting international investigations into Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. The seven suspects were indicted by the U.S. Justice department last week.
The indictment alleges they targeted some 250 athletes who had publicly supported a ban on Russian athletes in international sporting competitions.
Authorities also accuse the GRU of sustained efforts to breach the computer systems of global and national anti-doping agencies, the International Olympic Committee and soccer’s FIFA.
PLANE CRASH HACKERS
Additionally, GRU agents are suspected of trying to collect information on the international investigation of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over war-ravaged Ukraine in 2014.
British and Dutch authorities allege that a GRU cyber operation targeted the Malaysian Attorney General’s office and Malaysian police.
Investigators say they have strong evidence the Buk missile that downed the plane came from Russia, a charge Russia denies.
MEDDLING IN THE US
Yet another group of GRU agents is suspected of a damaging hack of Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Special investigator Robert Mueller indicted 12 people identified as GRU officers in July as part of his probe into possible Russian collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign.
In addition, Mueller also indicted 13 Russians working for a so-called troll factory suspected of spreading disinformation and manipulating U.S. voters online during the 2016 campaign.
Russia denies any meddling in the U.S. election.
Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.