Indictments dating from 2015 to 2019 were unsealed on Monday¸ for six Russian intelligence officers accused of engaging in some of the most destructive cyberattacks of recent years.
The United States federal prosecutors accused the Russia’s privileged hacking unit of knocking out Ukraine’s energy grid, exposing emails from the French president’s party and crippling corporate networks in a 2017 attack on business firms.
The hacking unit, known as GRU, has previously been linked by US authorities to cyber interference operations during the 2016 election campaigns.
The indictments reflect how Moscow has become increasingly aggressive in using a range of cyber weapons to achieve its geopolitical aims and attempt to destabilize some of its rivals, prosecutors and analysts said.
The defendants — Yurly Sergeyevich Andrienko, Sergey Vladimirovich Detistov, Pavel Valeryevich Frolov, Anatoliy Sergeyevich Prolov, Artem Valeryevich Ochichenko and Petr Nikolayevich Pliskin — are believed to be residents of Russia and couldn’t be reached to comment.
The Russian Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a request to comment.
All six were placed on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Kovale was also indicted in 2018 by former special counsel Robert Mueller in relation to Russian hacking attempts on US election systems ahead of the 2016 election.
The charges became public 15 days before this year’s Nov. 3 presidential election, which US intelligence officials have repeatedly warned is being targeted by Moscow. Russia has denied Western allegations that it engages in destructive cyber operations against other nations.
Last month, President Vladimir Putin of Russia proposed that Moscow and Washington agree to guarantee neither nation interferes in the other’s elections — an offer widely criticized by cybersecurity experts as one made in bad faith.
“No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, said.
On Monday, he said the unsealed charges “provide a useful lens for evaluating Russia’s offer two weeks ago for a reset in cyber relations between Russia and the United States.”