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By E&T editorial
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said there is ‘hard evidence’ that she was targeted by Russian hackers in what she calls ‘outrageous’ spying attempts.
Merkel’s comments came after German news outlet Der Spiegel reported that Russia’s GRU military intelligence service had obtained emails from Merkel’s parliamentary office in 2015.
Germany’s intelligence service has repeatedly accused Russian hackers of spying on lawmakers or leading politicians. Personnel at the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, said they have also discovered its systems were broken into in May 2015.
“I can say honestly that this pains me,” Merkel told lawmakers. “On the one hand, I work every day for a better relationship with Russia and when you see on the other hand that there is such hard evidence that Russian forces are involved in acting this way, this is an area of tension.” She also warned that Germany reserves the right to take measures, including against Russia.
During a question-and-answer session with lawmakers in parliament, Merkel was asked about the theft of data from her office. “I get the impression that they picked up relatively indiscriminately what they could get,” she replied.
“I am very glad that the investigations have now led to the federal prosecutor putting a concrete person on the wanted list,” she said, without elaborating. “I take these things very seriously because I believe this has been very thoroughly investigated.”
German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported last week that federal prosecutors had issued an arrest warrant against an alleged officer with Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency identified as Dmitriy Badin, who is already being sought by US authorities on suspicion of interfering with the 2016 US presidential elections. German prosecutors have not confirmed the report.
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the 2015 hacking attack on the German parliament, calling the accusations groundless. It has similarly dismissed charges of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and alleged cyber attacks on other Western nations and institutions.
Merkel said, “distortion of facts” was also part of Russia’s strategy. She added: “There is a hybrid warfare strategy by Russia we can’t ignore that includes cyber attacks, disorientation and manipulation of facts. I will work for a good relationship with Russia because I think there’s good reason to continue these diplomatic efforts. But of course, this doesn’t make it easy.”
Russian intelligence is not the first to be caught spying against Merkel. Relations with Washington were shaken in 2013 after it emerged in secrets revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped Merkel’s mobile phone.
It was also claimed in 2013 that Britain was using the roof of its embassy in Berlin to house a covert listening station to monitor nearby German government departments, including Merkel’s offices.