The European Union’s top brass said they “deplore” the actions of Russia, which on Thursday was accused of planning a cyberattack on the global chemical weapons agency.
The Netherlands said the operation was planned by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency against the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.
The OPCW has been probing the chemical attack on Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in the U.K.
In a joint statement, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said. “We express serious concerns about this attempt to undermine the integrity of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a respected international organisation, hosted by the Netherlands. This aggressive act demonstrated contempt [for the OPCW] … which works to eradicate weapons worldwide under a United Nations mandate.
“We deplore such actions, which undermine international law and international institutions. The EU will continue to strengthen the resilience of its institutions and those of its Member States, and international partners and organisations in the digital domain.”
The Dutch defence minister, Ank Bijleveld, said four Russian intelligence officials were expelled from the Netherlands after being caught spying on the watchdog in April, the Guardian reported.
Earlier Thursday, British government officials accused the GRU of being behind four high-profile cyberattacks whose targets included firms in Russia and Ukraine; the Democratic Party in the U.S; and a TV network in the U.K.
The British National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said in a statement it has identified “a number of cyber actors” who it believes are “in fact, the GRU” and whose global cyberattacks “have been conducted in flagrant violation of international law, have affected citizens in a large number of countries — including Russia — and have cost national economies millions of pounds.”
The NCSC said the attacks are proof that Russia is “working in secret to undermine international law and international institutions.”
In a joint statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte condemned the “unacceptable cyber activities” of Russia as well as the country’s “disregard for the global values and rules that keep us all safe.”
“Our action today reinforces the clear message from the international community: We will uphold the rules-based international system, and defend international institutions from those that seek to do them harm,” the two prime ministers said in a statement.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the attacks had “no legitimate national security interest” and described the GRU’s actions as “reckless and indiscriminate.”
The U.S. Justice Department unveiled charges Thursday against seven Russian military intelligence officials for their role in a cyberattack aimed at U.S. and international organizations that exposed a Kremlin-sponsored doping conspiracy tied to Russian athletes banned from the Olympics.