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Dutch authorities brief world chemical weapons watchdog on alleged Russian cyber attack

A plaque commemorating the opening of OPCW Headquarters. (file)
A plaque commemorating the opening of OPCW Headquarters. (file)

Dutch authorities brief world chemical weapons watchdog on alleged Russian cyber attack

Peace and Security

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefed the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Thursday, over allegations that a cyber attack was being plotted in April, against the headquarters of the OPCW, orchestrated by Russia.

The Ministry informed the OPCW chief that the attack was disrupted by the Netherlands Defence Intelligence and Security Service, which reportedly caught four alleged Russian agents who were in possession of specialist hacking equipment, near OPCW Headquarters in The Hague.

The briefing came as the United States and the United Kingdom, joined the Netherlands on Thursday in accusing Russian spies of involvement in a series of “cyber-plots” across the globe. Russia's Foreign Ministry is reported to have dismissed the allegations.

The OPCW is the UN-backed implementing body, consisting of more than 190 Member States, for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which aims to eliminate chemical weapons and their use. The Convention has proved to be the world’s most successful disarmament treaty so far, eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.

On 4 September, the OPCW delivered its report on the “toxic chemical incident” in Salisbury, in the UK, produced at the request of the UK Government. A former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, were poisoned, and the toxin later resulted in the death of a third person.

Based on an investigation by an expert OPCW team, which collected bloods samples from the three individuals, as well as environmental samples from the site, the report showed that the toxic chemical was a nerve agent of high purity.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Salisbury poisonings.

In a statement released on Thursday, the OPCW thanked the Dutch Government, which as host country, is responsible for ensure the protection of the Organisation’s headquarters, for its actions and said that it takes the security of its information systems and networks, very seriously, noting a rise in cyber-related attacks since early 2018.

The Director-General said that OPCW Technical Services has undertaken measures to mitigate further attacks.