'Trio charged with state treason in Russia'

Lawyer: Security service officers, Kaspersky Lab worker accused of furthering US interests

MOSCOW • The Russian authorities have charged two officers in the Federal Security Service, or FSB, and an employee of cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab with committing treason in the interests of the United States, a lawyer representing one of the three said.

Mr Ivan Pavlov identified the three as Ruslan Stoyanov, head of Kaspersky's computer incidents investigation team, and two officers working for the FSB's Information Security Centre, Sergei Mikhailov and Dmitry Dokuchayev.

"My client, along with others, has been charged with state treason and cooperating with US intelligence services," Mr Pavlov told Reuters.

The arrests were made at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow after US intelligence officials accused Russian hackers of sabotaging last year's US election in favour of President Donald Trump.

Moscow denies the allegations.

Russian newspaper Kommersant first reported the arrests last week, which it said took place in December.

Russian media reports link the charges to the disclosure of the Russian role in attacking state election boards, including the scanning of voter rolls in Arizona and Illinois, and do not mention the parallel attacks on the Democratic Party and the e-mail of Mrs Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.

The Kaspersky team, headed by Stoyanov, has been cooperating with the FSB since 2013 in analysing cybercrime cases and offering expertise in criminal cases concerning cyber security, Kommersant reported.

Kaspersky Lab confirmed Stoyanov's arrest but said the charges related to a period before he joined the company in 2012.

Mr Pavlov declined to say which of the three he was representing, stating only that Stoyanov was not his client.

Interfax news agency, quoting a source familiar with the probe, also reported that Mikhailov and Dokuchayev were accused of betraying their oath and working with the US Central Intelligence Agency.

A Kremlin spokesman said Russian President Vladimir Putin was aware of media reports about the arrests but the Kremlin could not confirm anything about them.

The details made public so far are incomplete. Russian media reports link the charges to the disclosure of the Russian role in attacking state election boards, including the scanning of voter rolls in Arizona and Illinois, and do not mention the parallel attacks on the Democratic Party and the e-mail of Mrs Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.

But one current and one former US official, speaking about the classified recruitments on condition of anonymity, confirmed that human sources in Russia did play a crucial role in proving who was responsible for the hacking.

Russian media says the FSB investigation into Mikhailov and Dokuchayev began after ThreatConnect, a US cyber security company, alleged that hackers used King Servers, an Internet hosting company, to attack US state election rolls.

The business partner of the owner of King Servers has long accused Mikhailov of working for the Federal Bureau of Invesitgation, the Financial Times reported yesterday. This is believed to have prompted the investigation into Mikhailov and Dokuchayev, a former hacker known as "Forb" who joined the secret services to avoid prison, according to Interfax.

Russian media often publishes news sourced from anonymous members of the secret services.

The stories often appear to push the Kremlin's line, reflect internal dissent among officials, be a deliberate attempt to mislead the public or a combination of all three, the Financial Times said.

The speed and detail in which elements of the case have been made public is, however, highly unusual.

Life, a tabloid whose owner boasts about bribing security officers for stories, reported on Tuesday that police found US$12 million (S$17 million) in cash stashed away in Mikhailov's home and dacha.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2017, with the headline ''Trio charged with state treason in Russia''. Print Edition | Subscribe