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Switzerland poised to get tough on Russian spies

Russian cyberattack
Russian hackers have targeted Switzerland on numerous occasions. KEYSTONE/© KEYSTONE / STRINGER

Switzerland is anticipating Russian disruption tactics during June’s Ukraine peace conference.

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The Swiss parliament is responding to the threat with demands to crack down on Russian espionage in the country.

Russia was not invited to the conference and has labeled it a waste of time.

Attendees from 70 countries will attend the summit on June 15-16 at the Bürgenstock resort in the canton of Nidwalden, outside the city of Lucerne.

+ What you need to know about the Ukraine peace summit

Instead, Russia will almost certainly launch cyberattacks against the conference, according to the NZZ am Sonntag.

“International events of this kind often attract the attention of state-supported hacker groups, in this case especially Russian state-supported groups,” Samir Aliyev, a lecturer in cybersecurity at the University of St Gallen, told the newspaper.

Russian hacking groups have previously targeted private and public infrastructure when Switzerland issued sanctions and hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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“I would not log into a public WiFi network at the Bürgenstock,” advised Swiss politician and IT security expert Franz Grüter.

Switzerland is also concerned about wider Russian espionage activities that have been stepped up in the Alpine state.

On Monday, the Senate will vote on a motion for Switzerland to toughen its stance on expelling foreign spies. The House of Representatives has already agreed to the measure.

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis also supports the motion, according to the SonntagsZeitung. The newspaper refers to comments made by Cassis on the subject of espionage agents during a speech last autumn.

According to the Swiss secret service, at least a third of 217 Russian diplomats in Switzerland are spies.

Translated from German by DeepL/mga

This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI swissinfo.ch we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles. 

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