Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen
General Onno Eichelsheim, head of the Dutch intelligence service, told the briefing in The Hague:
It’s not always clear why [the Russians] did the operation towards the OPCW because that does not show on their equipment. What I know is they were trying to target the OPCW networks in the period that they were investigating on the Skripals and on the Douma case.
The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has dismissed the new hacking accusations from the UK as “big fantasies”.
The Dutch authorities released pictures of the Russian agents as they arrived at Schipol Airport. The cyber-experts, who were accompanied by two operational support operatives, travelled on diplomatic passports with consecutive numbers under the names Aleksei Morenets and Evgenii Serebriakov.
They hired a Citroen car and were picked up by the Dutch authorities with all the equipment in the boot.
Theresa May and her Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, have issued this statement about the revelations about the GRU’s attempted cyber-attack against the OPCW. They said:
We have, with the operations exposed today, further shone a light on the unacceptable cyber activities of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU. It has targeted institutions across the world, including the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.
This attempt to access the secure systems of an international organisation working to rid the world of chemical weapons, demonstrates the GRU’s disregard for the global values and rules that keep us all safe.
Here is Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, and a former military intelligence officer, has posted this on Twitter.
The catalogue of evidence shows why the Dutch are excellent partners and that the decades of theft have stripped Russia’s intelligence of the skills they once had. Putin’s corrupt greed has turned the GRU into an amateurish bunch of jokers. https://t.co/n3kQw0BXm6
The BBC’s security correspondent, Gordon Corera, has been at the briefing in the Netherlands. He has posted some of the main revelations on Twitter.
Breaking – Dutch intelligence (with help of British) disrupted a Russian GRU cyber operation targeting OPCW on April 13th. Four Russian intelligence officers escorted out of country.
MORE – Investigation of laptop of one of four Russian intelligence officers found it was also active in Brazil, Switzerland and Malaysia. In Malaysia it was used to target the investigation into MH-17 crash.
More details will come from a US DOJ indictment this afternoon, Dutch government says. Unusual to release details of a counterintelligence investigation, Dutch say, but its because want to send a clear message that Russia must stop these operations.
GRU was planning a ‘close access hacking operation’ targeting the wifi-network of the OPCW
4 Russian individuals came to Netherlands on diplomatic passports in April. It became clear were GRU officers. Press conference being shown pictures of the men arriving at airport – all are being named. Two cyber operators had sequential passport numbers. Accompanied by 2 others
Intelligence supplied by UK helped show they were planning a close access hacking operation at the OPCW using a new technique. Found equipment in car boot used to intercept people’s log-ins. Antenna was pointed at OPCW pic.twitter.com/FHRpyZSmp3
When equipment was turned on there was a threat to OPCW and so arrested and deported. How can we be sure not on holiday, asks Dutch intelligence chief in a reference to the RT interview of the Salisbury duo? They carried multiple phones and tried to destroy one when arrested. pic.twitter.com/8RbKXkBr48
Men had specialist equipment. One of their cell phones activated in Moscow in April – near the GRU. One carried a taxi receipt for journey from street right by GRU to the international airport on 10 april.
Laptop data showed other trips. Present in Lausanne linked to hacking of a WADA conference laptop. Also present in Malaysia at hotel where those looking into MH-17 crash based. Also may have been intending to go to Switzerland after Netherlands – probably to Spiez lab.
Team deported were from GRU Unit 26165 – same as APT 28, says UK official. Another unit is sandworm – active remotely from Russia. It was active after Salisbury – In March it tried to compromise UK foreign office computer systems and in April targeted DSTL and OPCW
US DOJ will disclose charges this afternoon against Russian intelligence officers, says Dutch defence minister. Also Russian Ambassador has just been summoned to Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be told behaviour unacceptable
Just asked Dutch intelligence chief if target was Skripal investigation – he says it is impossible to be sure from technical evidence but it is the case they were trying to target the OPCW at the time it was investigating the Skripal case and the Douma case in Syria
At a press conference in The Hague, the British ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Wilson, said:
The disruption of this attempted attack on the OPCW was down to the expertise and the professionalism of the Dutch security services in partnership with the United Kingdom.
The OPCW is a respected international organisation which is working to rid the world of chemical weapons.
Here is a picture of the four Russians apprehended by the Dutch authorities.
The Press Association has more on the Dutch revelations.
The team of four GRU officers travelling on official Russian passports entered the Netherlands on April 10.
On April 13 they parked a car carrying specialist hacking equipment outside the headquarters of the OPCW in the The Hague.
Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, has said the UK will not be “backward leaning” in responding to Russian cyber aggression. Speaking at a Nato summit in Brussels, he said:
What we are seeing is that Russia is quite willing to use such weapons such as cyber attacks against these organisations, and here at Nato we stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies in unity against such actions.
What we have made clear is that we are not going to be backward leaning. We are going to actually make it clear where Russia acts that we are going to be exposing that action.
Dutch military intelligence disrupted a Russian cyber-attack on the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, the country’s defence minister has said. Here is my colleague Pippa Crerar’s story.
We’re just getting reports that Dutch and British intelligence foiled a Russian cyber attack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the organisation investigating the novichok poisonings in Salisbury.
Breaking – New info that Dutch intelligence, backed up by Brits, disrupted Russian intelligence cyber attack on OPCW – the body investigating chemical attacks in Salisbury and Douma
The European parliament’s steering group on Brexit, which represents most of the main groups in the parliament, has issued a statement calling for the talks to “intensify”. It says:
Now that the [Conservative party] conference is over, it is imperative, given the very short deadlines, that negotiations intensify in order to finalise the withdrawal agreement including a legally binding, workable and operational backstop for the Ireland/Northern Ireland border in line with the joint report of last December.
Without such a backstop, the European parliament would not be in a position to give its consent to the withdrawal agreement.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has taken the prime minister’s failure to name-check Chequers in her conference speech as a sign that she may be ready to dump the plan and get realistic, according to sources in Brussels, my colleague Daniel Boffey reports.
Campaigners have gathered outside the High Court ahead of a legal battle against controversial plans to expand Heathrow Airport. As the Press Association reports, councils and environmental charities are challenging the UK government’s decision to approve the building of a third runway. A crowd of about 50 protesters gathered outside the court in London on Thursday to hear speeches from prominent opponents of the expansion including shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Green party co-leader Jonathan Bartley.
McDonnell, whose Hayes and Harlington constituency is one of those affected by the plans, said up to 4,000 homes could be damaged or lost if the third runway goes ahead. He said:
It isn’t just our homes, it isn’t just our community, this is our planet itself.
This will be such a retrograde step in the campaign that we have to ensure climate change is halted.
Katya Adler, the BBC’s Europe editor, has a useful Twitter thread about Leo Varadkar’s meetings in Brussels today on Brexit. It starts here.
1) Irish PM in Brussels for crucial talks today. The Irish backstop is THE main stumbling block to completing the UK’s withdrawal agreement from the EU. Will Varadkar push for more EU openness to U.K. proposals?
Last night Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s deputy leader, was interviewed on ITV’s Peston. He said the DUP would rather have a no deal Brexit than agree to any plan that could involve “a border down the Irish Sea”. He told the programme:
No deal is better than a bad deal. A catastrophic deal for us would be a border down the Irish Sea, which over a period of time could lead to a continuing divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. That’s catastrophic in economic terms for our economy, never mind the constitutional and political implications of all of that.
With her party conference over, Theresa May now faces the challenge of trying to agree the outline of a Brexit deal with the EU before the “moment of truth” October summit taking place a fortnight today. That is not the ultimate deadline for a deal, but Donald Tusk, the European council president, has said he will not schedule a final summit in November to wrap up the deal unless there is enough progress by Thursday 18 October to make him think an agreement can be reached.
Here is the timetable for the next few weeks.
We are assuming 1-1.5% growth for next year but if we get a bad Brexit then that could be zero or negative and that would affect our profitability and our share price …
Big businesses are pausing, they are saying that in six months time I’ll have another look at the UK and I might come back, but if it’s really bad I’ll invest elsewhere – that’s the reality of where we are today.