The U.S. Justice Department unveiled charges Thursday against seven Russian military intelligence officials for their role in a sweeping cyberattack aimed at U.S. and international organizations that exposed a Kremlin-sponsored doping conspiracy tied to Russian athletes banned from the Olympics.
Trump administration officials rolled out the 41-page indictment, filed in federal district court in Pittsburgh, naming members of Russia’s secretive spy service for launching a four-year hacking campaign against the Colorado-based U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency and several other global sporting groups.
The Russian hackers — charged in the U.S. with conspiracy, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and identity theft — targeted organizations that had uncovered a sweeping Moscow-driven doping scheme that led to the country’s athletes being banned from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil and the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
With the stolen personal information, the hackers engaged in a much publicized “influence and disinformation campaign designed to undermine the legitimate interests of the victims, further Russian interests, retaliate against Russia’s detractors and sway public opinion in Russian’s favor,” the indictment said.
Partnering with British, Dutch and Canadian intelligence for the rollout, the U.S. criminal charges mark the latest international rebuke of Russian President Vladimir Putin despite what President Donald Trump continues to say and do about both Russia and his criticism of the concept of coordinated international action.
While Trump drew global ridicule for his controversial summit this summer with Putin, the U.S. just days later hit Russia with sanctions over the attempted assassination in Britain of a former Kremlin spy, Sergei Skirpal.
The State Department has called out Russia over its continued use of social media to spread disinformation and influence American elections. And Trump’s Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller in July also charged 12 Russian military officials with hacking into Democratic Party computer systems to sabotage the 2016 presidential election.
Thursday’s indictments are not tied to Mueller’s work, but the head of Justice’s National Security Division said during a press conference in Washington that the indictment charges do cover an overlapping group of conspirators.
“They evince some of the same methods of computer intrusion and the same overarching Russian strategic goal: to pursue its interests through illegal influence and disinformation operations aimed at muddying or altering perceptions of the truth,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers.