The Justice Department on Thursday charged seven Russian intelligence officials with hacking doping agencies and other organizations.
Russians operatives targeted their victims because they had either publicly supported a ban on Russian athletes in international sports competitions or had condemned Russia’s state-sponsored athlete doping program, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors in Washington said a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company and an international organization investigating chemical weapons in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russia officer were also targeted.
The charges did not appear directly related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of the Kremlin’s interference and potential coordination with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
However, three of the seven defendants in the indictment announced Thursday were previously charged by Mueller, according to Assistant Attorney General of the National Security Division John Demers.
“The defendants believed they could use their anonymity to act with impunity in their own countries and on the territories of other sovereign nations to undermine international institutions and to distract from their government’s own wrongdoing,” Demers said. “They were wrong.”
Mueller charged dozens of Russian nationals and a trio of Russian companies with attempting to sway the 2016 contest in Trump’s favor.
Earlier Thursday, British officials blasted Moscow for being behind an aggressive array of cyber attacks worldwide. The accusation coincided with Dutch security services expelling four Russians over a cyber plot against the global chemical weapons watchdog.
The Canadian government joined in as they condemned Russian “malicious cyber-operations,” expressing confidence that the Kremlin and the country’s military has been behind a series of hacks targeting the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.
The Russian hacks were part of a broader pattern of activities by Moscow that flout international law, Global Affairs Canada said in a statement.