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Sensitive Swiss denounce increasing Russian espionage

Intelligence chief Gaudin and Defence Minister Parmelin at news conference

The Swiss intelligence chief Jean-Philippe Gaudin (left) is concerned about increasing cyberattacks to influence elections in several countries. 

(Keystone)

Defence Minister Guy Parmelin says Russian spy activity against sensitive infrastructure in Switzerland has reached intolerable levels.

He said cyberattacks and espionage were the main security threats to Switzerland’s sovereignty.

Parmelin made the statement during a news conference on Friday with the head of the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS), Jean-Philippe Gaudin who took up his post just over three months ago.

The Swiss authorities believe that two Russian spies targeted a Swiss chemical weapons testing facility outside the capital, Bern. Prosecutors are also investigating a cyberattack against the offices of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Lausanne.

However, neither Parmelin nor Gaudin gave further details.

Last month, the FIS said it had worked with British and Dutch counterparts to foil a Russian plot which allegedly targeted a laboratory in Spiez that tests nerve agents such as Novichok, used in an attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in England last March.

+ How Moscow reacted to Swiss allegations over Russian spying

Gaudin expressed his surprise at the information policy of the Dutch intelligence service in the case, saying the Swiss authorities preferred more discretion.

He said an amended law, in force since September 2017, giving the intelligence service increased powers, notably monitoring cyberspace activities, had made it possible to uncover the Russian activities.

The Swiss authorities have set up a working group to prevent possible attempts to manipulate and influence the 2019 parliamentary elections in Switzerland.

swissinfo.ch with Keystone-SDA, Reuters, RTS/urs

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