Responding to the accusations by Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld, who claimed that the country's intelligence services had thwarted a cyberattack by Moscow on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Russian Foreign Ministry said that "Western spy mania is gaining momentum."
"We have repeatedly warned the Dutch side, including through diplomatic channels, that the anti-Russian spymania campaign launched in the country, accompanied by deliberate leaks in the media about the alleged cyber attacks, causes serious harm to bilateral relations," the ministry said in a statement.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Dutch accusations of cyberattacks are a part of a "staged propaganda campaign against Russia." Moscow has also warned the Netherlands that the "spy mania campaign" seriously harms bilateral relations.
"Concerning the allegations about the MH17 crash, the [accusations] are not casual. The Dutch party seems to have nothing to respond to the facts that were presented by the Russian Defense Ministry on the origin of the missile that hit the Malaysian plane as well as other issues," the statement said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed that the Netherlands "waited almost six months" to publish data on the expulsion of four Russian nationals from the country.
"It may look strange only for the lay public. On October 9, an OPCW session opens where the financing of the attributive mechanism within the Organization’s Technical Secretariat will be discussed. The creation of such a mechanism for appointing the 'guilty' in the use of chemical weapons, contrary to the norms of international law and in violation of the prerogatives of the UN Security Council, has been persistently sought by a number of Western states," the ministry said in a commentary.
Previously, a source from the Russian Foreign Ministry told Sputnik that there "were and could be no" attacks on the OPCW by Moscow. The insider proceeded to say that the accusations against Russia were an example of some Western nations' policies that had turned into "obscurantism."
"There were no attacks and there can not be any. These [accusations] have nothing to do with either the Chemical Weapons Convention or the Organization. This is related to the common, extinct, obscene policy of some Western states…. Why should we hack anything? We have access, the entire network is open to us. This is yet another nonsense," the source said.
The comments followed shortly after the Dutch defense minister claimed that the four Russian nationals who are suspected of attempting to carry out an operation against the OPCW and were expelled from the country allegedly had diplomatic passports.
"The Dutch government finds the involvement of these intelligence operatives extremely worrisome. Normally we don't reveal this type of counter-intelligence operation," Bijleveld told a news conference, claiming that the four Russians were GRU officers.
Bijleveld announced that the Russian ambassador to the Netherlands had been summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an explanation.
Meanwhile, the diplomatic mission told Sputnik that the Dutch Foreign Ministry had summoned Russia's charge d'affaires in the Netherlands.
"Our charge d'affaires ad interim was in the Dutch Foreign Ministry," the mission said.
At a press conference in The Hague, Bijleveld called on Russia to cease its cyber activities purportedly aimed at "undermining" Western democracies.
The defense minister claimed that the Russians had a car full of electronic equipment parked near a hotel next to the OPCW's headquarters in The Hague and allegedly tried to hack into its computer system.
The minister further alleged that a laptop of one of the four was linked to Malaysia, Brazil and Switzerland, adding that the activities in Malaysia were purportedly related to the probe into the 2014 MH17 downing over Ukraine.
"We have been aware of the interest of Russian intelligence services in this investigation and have taken appropriate measures. We remain very alert about this," she claimed.
The Dutch Defense Ministry also announced that the United States would bring charges against some "Russian intelligence agents" on Thursday.
"Today, the US publicly brings charges against a number of Russian intelligence officers," the ministry said in a statement.
Belgian MP: Accusations Against Russia for Everything that Goes Wrong in Europe 'Ridiculous'
Speaking with Sputnik, Frank Creyelman, an honorary Belgian MP and former chairman to the Committee on Foreign Policy, European Affairs and International Cooperation, said that blaming Russia for "everything that goes wrong in Europe is starting to be more and more ridiculous."
"Election modus for me. The accusations against Russia for everything that goes wrong in Europe is starting to be more and more ridiculous. The Russian government has apparently nothing else to do then mingle in other countries the size of… the Netherlands," he said.
He added, "Of course a Dutch military attack on Russia is the first concern of the Russian Defense Ministry. Of course Russia exterminated the dinosaurs, sunk the Titanic and Vladimir Putin killed my neighbor's dog. Seriously: the attempts of our ‘democracies’ to keep the hatred against Russia on cooking point is not just ridiculous, but starting to become dangerous. Till now, Russia reacted responsible on every accusation and on every provocation from the West. I hope Russia will continue on this path. Another option would be terrible for the world."
NATO Chief, Dutch and UK PMs, EU, US Defense Secretary Comment on Alleged Cyberattacks
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg weighed in on the accusations, saying that the alliance stood in solidarity with the Dutch and British governments, and that it must call out Moscow on "blatant attempts to undermine international law and institutions."
"Russia must stop its reckless pattern of behavior, including the use of force against its neighbors, attempted interference in election processes, and widespread disinformation campaigns," Stoltenberg said.
He further stated that the Netherlands had informed NATO defense ministers about the alleged cyberattack on the OPCW, and claimed that the attempted operation, purportedly carried out by GRU operatives, was foiled by Dutch intelligence.
Stoltenberg stressed that in light of the fresh accusations, NATO would enhance security to fight hybrid threats, including those in cyberspace.
"NATO will continue to strengthen its defense and deterrence to deal with hybrid threats, including in the cyber domain," he added at the meeting with NATO defense ministers.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his British counterpart, Theresa May, also claimed that the alleged cyberattack on the OPCW demonstrated "GRU's disregard for global values and rules."
"This attempt to access the secure system of an international organization working to rid the world of chemical weapons demonstrates the GRU's disregard for global values and rules that keep us all safe," they said in a joint statement.
The European Union, in turn, condemned "aggressive" Russian cyber spying.
"We deplore such actions, which undermine international law and international institutions. The EU will continue to strengthen the resilience of its institutions and those of its Member States, and international partners and organizations in the digital domain," the EU politicians said.
Commenting on the Netherlands' claims, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that Russia's cyber effort to hack the OPCW is Moscow's "latest reckless attempt," which shows "disregard for international norms."
"The GRU cyberattack which has been revealed on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is the latest in a worldwide pattern of reckless and irresponsible behavior from Moscow," Mattis said.
UK Will Work With Allies to Renew Sanctions Regime for Cyberattacks — Permanent Rep. to OPCW
British Ambassador to the Netherlands and UK Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Peter Wilson said that London would cooperate with its allies to update sanctions for cyberattacks.
“We will work with our allies through our institutions, including the European Union, to renew the sanctions regime in order to determine the response to the use of chemical weapons, fight offensive actions in cyberspace and punish human rights violations,” Wilson said.
UK's Accusations of New Cybercrimes
In the meantime, Russia's Embassy to the UK stated on Thursday that London's accusations that Russian spies were behind global cyberattacks lacked proof and were part of a crude disinformation campaign.
"This statement is irresponsible. As is traditional, it is not backed by any proof and is another element in an anti-Russian campaign being conducted by the British government."
Russia's response followed the statement by Britain's Defense Minister Gavin Williamson who branded Russia as a "pariah state" after cyber experts claimed that GRU was responsible for a series of cyberattacks on political institutions, media outlets and infrastructure across the globe, including in the UK.
"This is not the actions of a great power, this is the actions of a pariah state and we'll continue working with allies to isolate, make them understand they cannot continue to conduct themselves in such a way. We're going to make it clear where Russia acts that we are going to be exposing that action and we believe that by doing so this will act as a disincentive to act in such a way in the future," Williamson told reporters.