Germany seeks sanctions on Russia over hacking that also targeted Merkel's e-mails

The operation aimed at the Bundestag had also struck Nato members. PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (AFP) - Germany's foreign ministry on Thursday (May 28) called in the Russian ambassador to discuss possible sanctions against Moscow over a 2015 hacking attack on the German Parliament, in an escalating diplomatic row.

"The Russian ambassador was informed that on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the (German) federal prosecutor's office on May 5 against Russian national Dmitry Badin, that the German government will seek in Brussels to use the EU cyber sanctions regime against those responsible for the attack on the German Bundestag, including Mr Badin," the ministry said in a statement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Parliament this month that Russia was targeting her in hacking attacks, saying she had concrete proof of the "outrageous" spying attempts and raising the possibility of sanctions.

Berlin's intelligence services have repeatedly called out attempts by Russian hackers to spy on lawmakers or leading politicians.

Mr Badin is also wanted by the FBI for other cyber attacks, including those targeting the Democrats during the 2016 US presidential election.

He was accused by the German federal prosecutor's office this month of spying against the Bundestag lower house of parliament in 2015 on behalf of Russia's GRU military intelligence service.

The operation aimed at the Bundestag involved an aggressive attack called Sofacy or APT 28 that had also struck Nato members and knocked French TV station TV5Monde off the air.

It is believed to have scooped up data from Mrs Merkel's email account as well as those of MPs. According to Spiegel magazine, hackers managed to completely copy two of Mrs Merkel's email accounts containing correspondence dating between 2012 and 2015.

The move comes against the backdrop of mounting friction with Berlin over Moscow's actions in different arenas - from annexing Ukraine's Crimea, to cyber meddling in elections and its backing of Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria.

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