Published: Sun, September 16, 2018

Swiss intelligence helped foil alleged Russian plot to spy on government lab

Swiss intelligence helped foil alleged Russian plot to spy on government lab

The men are believed to have been agents for the Russian military intelligence service, according to Swiss and Dutch media.

In a statement to The Moscow Times, a spokesperson for Switzerland's Federal Intelligence Service (FIS), Isabelle Graber, confirmed it had worked with its Dutch and British counterparts in the case.

Their arrest was part of an global security operation with Swiss intelligence agencies playing a key role, according to Switzerland's Tages Azeiger newspaper.

Two Russian men were arrested earlier this year on suspicion of spying on a Swiss laboratory investigating the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a newspaper investigation has claimed.

The agents were allegedly targeting the Spiez Laboratory which has in recent months investigated toxic gas attacks in Syria and the March nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, in the United Kingdom city of Salisbury.

The Dutch government expelled two alleged Russian spies this year after they were accused of planning to hack into a Swiss chemicals laboratory where novichok nerve agent samples from the Salisbury attack were analysed, it has emerged. She said the agency helped prevent "illegal actions against a critical Swiss infrastructure", and declined further comment. The laboratory has also been investigating poison gas attacks by the Syrian regime backed by the Kremlin.

Switzerland's Foreign Ministry said it summoned Russia's ambassador to "protest against this attempted attack" and demanded that Russian Federation "immediately" end its spying activities on Swiss soil.

In April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov named Spiez as one of the labs conducting the OPCW's analysis.

The two agents - who are not the men accused by Britain of carrying out the nerve agent attack - are said to have targeted Switzerland's Spiez laboratory earlier this year. He said the lab had taken precautions, and no data was lost. According to a report in April by the Russian news agency TASS, Lavrov received information "confidentially" that Spiez found traces of USA chemical warfare agents in the samples.

"We believe that this is a new anti-Russian bogus story made up by the Western media", he was quoted as saying, alluding to the events that took place six months ago.

"We have seen this article and it gives rise to a lot of questions".

Theresa May said they were GRU intelligence officers and that the attack had been approved "at a senior level of the Russian state". "It is absurd, just new groundless allegations".

Western governments have said it was used by forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, which Russian Federation supports in the Syrian civil war.

"Alexander Petrov" and "Ruslan Boshirov", the suspected Salisbury attackers, have been ridiculed after claiming they visited the unlikely tourist destination on the recommendation of friends.

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