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Russian hackers to spy on lawmakers of Germany

The German Chancellor told parliament: ‘I can honestly say that it pains me. Every day I try to build a better relationship with Russia and on the other hand, there is such hard evidence that Russian forces are doing this.’

According to Spiegel, which did not cite its sources, German experts managed to partially reconstruct the hacking attack and found that two email inboxes from Mrs Merkel’s office had been breached. They reportedly contained emails from 2012 to 2015.

In 2016, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency publicly accused a hacker group thought to work for the Russian state of being behind the cyberattack.

The group, known as Fancy Bear or APT28, is also thought to have been behind cyberattacks on the 2016 US election.

Merkel said investigations had identified a specific suspect. ‘Unfortunately, the conclusion I have reached is that this is not new,’ she said, noting that ‘cyber-disorientation, the distortion of facts’ were all part of ‘Russia’s strategy’. 

 Merkel, meanwhile, says she is trying to improve ties with Russia, but added that the latest attack did not help efforts.

Moscow has denied previous allegations of hacking abroad.

Germany’s intelligence service has repeatedly called out attempts by Russian hackers to spy on lawmakers or leading politicians.

Two years ago, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied Russia had hacked the German parliament (Bundestag) with a cutting joke: “We broke into the Bundestag only once, in 1945, while liberating Berlin from the Nazi scourge. At that time, it was called the Reichstag.”

But Merkel added: ‘I will strive for good relations with Russia because I think there is every reason to continue our diplomatic efforts but it doesn’t make it easier.’

Merkel directed similar consternation at Barack Obama’s White House in 2013 when reports emerged that the US National Security Agency had hacked her mobile phone. She dispatched a team of intelligence officers to Washington and said: ‘The charges are grave and have to be cleared up.’

 The German investigation was dropped in 2015 because insufficient evidence could be found for the allegation to stand up the court. This was widely perceived as a move to cool transatlantic friction which had built up as a result of the probe.

At the time the White House had said it was not spying on Merkel at present and would not do so in future, however its refusal to say whether it had done so was taken by some as an admission of guilt.

By Sanjida Xannat

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