Swiss intelligence helped foil alleged Russian plot targeting government lab

The Spiez Laboratory near Bern

Swiss, Dutch and British intelligence worked together to foil the plot directed at the laboratory near Bern, which houses experts in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

The Swiss confirmation came after Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad and Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported that two Russians suspected of being agents of military intelligence service GRU were kicked out of the Netherlands earlier this year as a result of a Europe-wide investigation.

Dutch authorities arrested and expelled two suspected Russian spies months ago for allegedly trying to hack a Swiss laboratory that conducts chemical weapons tests, Switzerland's government confirmed Friday as it summoned the Russian ambassador to protest an "attempted attack".

Shortly after the March attack on the former Russian spy, the U.K.'s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down identified the substance used as belonging to a group of nerve agents known as "Novichoks".

But on March 26, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that his cabinet had made a decision to expel "two Russian intelligence workers from the Russian embassy" as a result of the Skripal attack, without giving further details. "The exact date of the arrest of spies unknown", - stated in the message. Beyond confirming the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service's collaboration, the AG's office did not elaborate further.

Andreas Bucher, a spokesperson for Spiez Laboratory, also declined to comment on the deportations.

The alleged Russian agents were expelled from The Hague during a period when the OPCW was actively investigating the case. In June, a conference hosted by the lab was targeted by hackers using a destructive worm that was first released during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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Spokespeople for the Hague's Prosecutor's office, the Dutch military intelligence MIVD unit and the Dutch prosecutor's office responsible for worldwide investigations all declined to comment on the reports.

In the article, the head of communications at the lab said he could not comment on the FIS information.

The lab in question - Labor Spiez - has investigated samples of the Novichok nerve agents implemented in the Skripal poisoning.

"I cannot suppose that such an occurrence, in which the specialists of three Western countries participated, could remain out of the field of view of the mass media", Lavrov said on September 14 after meeting with his German counterpart in Berlin, Russian news agencies said.

The two men are not the same suspects accused of carrying out the poisoning of the Skripals - Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov - who were charged on September 5.

On Friday the Kremlin-backed RT news channel aired an interview with Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who the United Kingdom government say carried out the assassination attempt.

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