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UK, Germany consider fresh Russian sanctions after hacking charges
[MADRID] The UK and Germany are considering fresh measures to put pressure on Russia after US and European investigators disclosed a range of new accusations over hacking activities by Russian military intelligence.
"We have to be ready to take action either on our own or preferably in concert with allies if appropriate," David Lidington, the UK's de facto deputy prime minister, told Bloomberg News on the sidelines of an event in Madrid on Friday. Additional sanctions against Russia are under discussion between Germany and its European partners, according to Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert.
The comments signal an escalation in tensions with the Kremlin a day after the US accused seven Russian nationals of hacking attempts and UK and Dutch authorities said they'd foiled an operation by some of the same suspected Russian agents. Targets included the United Nations' anti-chemical weapons body and international sports organisations.
"The German government believes with near certainty that Russian military intelligence" is behind recent attacks," Mr Seibert said Friday at a regular press briefing in Berlin.
The most recent Russian activity disclosed by the authorities involves attempts by GRU military intelligence to gain access to organisations looking into allegations of Russian wrongdoing. British officials who have accused Russia of deploying a nerve agent to poison a former Soviet agent in the UK came under special scrutiny.
The pileup of charges may bring US and EU allies together in taking more action against the Kremlin. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Thursday that British officials plan to discuss with partners "what further sanctions should be imposed."
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms such attacks on international organizations and on the institutions of our allies and urge Russia to meet its responsibilities and cease such activities," Merkel's spokesman Mr Seibert said.