Russian agents ‘tried to spy on Swiss chemicals lab’

The Spiez laboratory near Bern is alleged to have been the target, according to the newspaper Keystone

Two Russian agents suspected of trying to spy on a Swiss laboratory were arrested in the Netherlands and expelled early this year, the Tages-Anzeiger reported on Friday, citing unnamed sources.

SDA-ATS, Reuters; ilj/urs

The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) has confirmed the information obtained by the Tages-Anzeiger and Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad.

“The FIS was active in this operation with its Dutch and British partners,” a spokeswoman was quoted as saying in the newspaper report. In this way it was possible to “stop an illegal action against a critical piece of Swiss infrastructure,” she added.

The newspaper said that according to its research the plot, which took place during the spring, had been directed at the Spiez laboratory 40km outside the capital, Bern. 

In the article, the head of communications at the lab said he could not comment on the FIS information. He did, however, confirm that the lab had been targeted by hackers, but added that it was well prepared and that no data was taken.

Ambassador summoned

The foreign ministry said it summoned the Russian ambassador to Switzerland to demand an "immediate end to spy activities on Swiss territory".

However, the Russian embassy has dismissed the allegations.

"We consider such false statements simply absurd and nothing other than another attempt to an stoke anti-Russian atmosphere," it said.

The Spiez lab has analysed suspected poison gas deployed in Syria and samples of a nerve agent that Britain says Russia used to try to murder a former spy.

The newspaper said the two suspects were not the same men accused by Britain last week of trying to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain in March. Russia has denied that these two men have anything to do with the Skripal case.

The Tages-Anzeiger added that the Swiss government had been informed of the Swiss chemicals testing laboratory case. The Swiss Attorney General was investigating the two men as part of a probe that started in March 2017 "in another context", media outlets said.

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