‘Pained’ Merkel Says There Is ‘Solid Evidence’ of Russian Hacking against Her, Bundestag

‘Pained’ Merkel Says There Is ‘Solid Evidence’ of Russian Hacking against Her, Bundestag

Russia’s strategy of hybrid warfare cannot simply be “wished away”, the German leader said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been especially critical on Russia when answering questions in the German Parliament, the Bundestag, about a hacking case dating back to 2015.

Merkel said there was “solid evidence” of the involvement of Russian forces in hacking efforts, and those presented a great hurdle to improving relations with Moscow.

According to the latest report on the issue by Der Spiegel magazine last Friday, hacking traced to Russia’s intelligence has also affected her local constituency office’s emails

“I can honestly say, it pains me,” Merkel told the Bundestag on Tuesday.

The German leader, who is fluent in Russian, often initiates attempts for rapprochement between the West and Moscow, whose relations have been strained since 2014 Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the seize of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, with a pro-Russian insurgency in Ukraine’s Donbass region in action ever since.

“On the one hand, I strive daily for a better relationship with Russia, but then on the other we see that there is solid evidence showing that Russian forces are also involved in such activities,” Merkel told the German MPs, as cited by DW.

“This really does add tension to our work towards and our desire for better relations with Russia. It’s also an issue I can’t quite dismiss internally, I find it quite uncomfortable,” she added.

The German Chancellor said she was taking the report published in magazine Der Spiegel on Friday “very seriously” and believed that it had been “thoroughly researched.”

She also revealed there was no information on the specific data the hackers took or were seeking, indicating her impression that the attempt was relatively random.

“[The material was targeted] relatively haphazardly, based on what they could get,” Merkel said, adding she was “very happy” that German’s federal prosecution office had named a suspect in the case.

The suspect, hacker Dmitry Badin, is known for ties to the “Fancy Bear” hacker group, which is believed to have worked with Russian intelligence services.

“Fancy Bear” or ATP28 operation is best known for its hack of the servers of the Democratic Party prior to the 2016 presidential elections in the US, and Badin is also wanted by the FBI.

“Sadly, my conclusions aren’t that new, because this is just one facet of many. There is a Russian strategy — we must be aware of this and we cannot simply wish it away — of hybrid warfare, also involving such cyber disorientation and the twisting of the facts,” Merkel said.

“It is not a coincidence, it is absolutely a strategy they’re pursuing. Nevertheless, I will continue to strive for a good relationship with Russia, because I believe there are very good reasons to pursue such diplomatic efforts. But this doesn’t make it any easier,” she added.

“More than uncomfortable, that is correct,” Merkel replied. “Uncomfortable is one facet of this. I also find it outrageous. Though I am not the only one affected, many other lawmakers might find it outrageous as well,” the German leader concluded.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he knew nothing of Badin.

“I don’t know who Germany is issuing the warrant for, I don’t know which hackers this is about, and why is this hacker supposed to be tied to the [Russian intelligence agency] GRU,” Peskov said.

The Russian Embassy in Berlin is quoted as saying, it had received no inquiry from the German government about Badin and had no information about him.

(Banner image: Video grab from DW)

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