The Netherlands months ago arrested and expelled two Russians who tried to hack into a Swiss laboratory where scientists tested samples from the Novichok nerve agent used in the attack in Salisbury, England, in March, Swiss authorities said.
The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) said the men were arrested as part of an operation involving British, Swiss, and Dutch intelligence agencies.
The Swiss daily newspaper Tages-Anzeiger said the men carried equipment that could aid in breaking into the Spiez Laboratory’s computer network. “The FIS has thus contributed to the prevention of illegal actions against a critical Swiss infrastructure,” FIS spokeswoman Isabelle Graber said.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia passed out on March 4 in a Salisbury park after being exposed to the military-grade nerve agent. British officials blamed the Russian intelligence agency for the poisoning. The Spiez Laboratory confirmed British claims that the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok. Russia repeatedly denied responsibility. The Skripals survived the attack, but two other Salisbury residents were later exposed to the agent, and one of them died.
Stanislav Smirnov, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Switzerland, called the report absurd, according to the Russian state Tass news agency. “We believe that this is a new anti-Russian bogus story made up by the Western media,” he said. —O.O.