Swiss intelligence helped foil Russia plot to spy on lab

A sign warning of CCTV area controlled is seen next to the Spiez Laboratory, Swiss Federal Institute for NBC-Protection (nuclear, biological, chemical), on September 14, 2018 in Spiez, 40km from the capital Bern as Swiss newspapers reported that two Russian agents suspected of trying to spy the laboratory were arrested in the Netherlands and expelled early this year. (AFP)
Updated 15 September 2018
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Swiss intelligence helped foil Russia plot to spy on lab

  • British authorities tested the Novichok found in Salisbury at Porton Down, a defense facility nearby, but have not said where else the substance might have been analyzed

ZURICH: Switzerland’s intelligence agency said on Friday it had worked with British and Dutch counterparts to foil a Russian plot which, according to newspaper reports, was targeting a Swiss laboratory testing nerve agents such as Novichok. Earlier on Friday a Swiss and a Dutch newspaper reported that authorities from the three countries had teamed up in an operation which resulted in the Netherlands expelling two suspected Russian spies in March.
Citing unnamed sources, the Tages-Anzeiger and NRC Handelsblad reported that the suspected agents were heading for the Spiez laboratory near Bern which analyzes chemical and biological weapons, including nerve agent Novichok. Britain says Moscow used Novichok to try to kill former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury in early March and last week charged two Russian men in absentia with attempted murder. “Swiss authorities are aware of the case of Russian spies identified in The Hague and expelled from there,” the Swiss NDB intelligence agency said in a statement. “The NDB took active part in this operation together with its Dutch and British partners. The NDB has thus contributed to preventing illegal activity targeting critical Swiss infrastructure.” It did not elaborate. The Russian embassy in Bern dismissed the Swiss account.
“We consider such false statements simply absurd and nothing other than another attempt to stoke an anti-Russian atmosphere,” it said.
The newspapers said the two suspects expelled from the Netherlands were not the same as the two men charged by British prosecutors in the Skripal case last week.
The Dutch military intelligence agency MIVD did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Dutch government announced on March 26 that it would expel two Russian “intelligence agents” who worked at the Russian embassy in The Hague, without giving further details.
A spokesman for the Spiez laboratory declined to comment on the NDB statement, but said the government facility had previously been the target of cyberattacks.
In July the Spiez lab said hackers had circulated a malware-loaded document purporting to be a factsheet linked to a scientific workshop the lab organized, but that it was unaware of any direct attacks on the lab itself.
British authorities tested the Novichok found in Salisbury at Porton Down, a defense facility nearby, but have not said where else the substance might have been analyzed.
The newspaper reports said the alleged Russian plot had gone beyond cyberattacks and that authorities found “equipment used for espionage” during their operation against the suspected spies.
In the weeks after the Skripal poisoning, Britain and dozens of other countries have kicked out scores of Russian diplomats, and Moscow has responded tit-for-tat in the biggest East-West wave of expulsions since the Cold War.


Cambodia genocide verdict a signal to other perpetrators: US

The historic verdict comes nearly 40 years after the Khmer Rouge were expelled from Cambodia following a four-year reign of terror that left about a quarter of the population dead. (AP)
Updated 5 min 19 sec ago
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Cambodia genocide verdict a signal to other perpetrators: US

  • A war crimes tribunal in Cambodia found the Khmer Rouge’s former head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, and “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 92, guilty of genocide on Friday
  • Let this be a message to other perpetrators of mass atrocities: US State Department

PHNOM PENH: The US has welcomed Cambodia’s landmark genocide verdict and said it served as a warning that perpetrators of mass atrocities, “even those at the highest levels,” will eventually face justice for their crimes.
A war crimes tribunal in Cambodia found the Khmer Rouge’s former head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, and “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 92, guilty of genocide on Friday and sentenced them to life in prison.
The historic verdict comes nearly 40 years after the Khmer Rouge were expelled from Cambodia following a four-year reign of terror that left about a quarter of the population dead from starvation, mass executions, and overwork.
“Their crimes were numerous, calculated, and grave,” US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, commending the courage of the victims and witnesses who testified during the trial.
“Let this be a message to other perpetrators of mass atrocities, even those at the highest levels, including former heads of state, that such actions will not be tolerated and they will ultimately be brought to justice,” she said in a statement.
Cambodia’s neighbor Myanmar has come under fire in recent months for its handling of the Rohingya crisis, which United Nations investigators believe amounts to “genocide” given the atrocities perpetrated on the stateless Muslim minority.
Myanmar has denied the allegations but UN investigators have urged that the case be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation and prosecution.
Despite the show of support for war crimes prosecution, the US is one of the few Western countries that is not signed up to the ICC, which has a mandate to investigate the gravest offenses including genocide and crimes against humanity.
The country’s refusal to be party to the body erupted again following an ICC request to open an investigation into alleged war crimes by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees.
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and threatened to arrest and sanction judges and other officials of the court if it moved to charge any American.