Russia says Germany has not provided any evidence of Bundestag hack

Germany may seek to impose sanctions on Russia, rather than actually trial the hacker.
Written by Catalin Cimpanu, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

Russian officials said this week that German authorities have failed to produce the evidence that Russian military hackers breached the German Parliament in 2015.

The statement is in relation to an arrest warrant that Germany filed at the end of May, when they charged a Russian hacker named Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin.

German prosecutors said Badin was a member of a hacking group named APT28 (Fancy Bear, Sofacy, Strontium, Grizzly Steppe), which breached the German Parliament (Bundestag) in the first half of 2015, where he installed malware and stole government documents.

Investigators said they linked one of the APT28 hackers to Badin, a member of Unit 26165, a unit part of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), the military intelligence agency of Russia's armed forces.

On the day they issued an arrest warrant, German officials also summoned the Russian ambassador and notified him of the charges.

However, in an interview with Russian news agency RIA on Thursday, Vladimir Titov, Russia's First Deputy Foreign Minister, said that more than a month after Germany filed the Badin arrest warrant, German officials did not provide any evidence of Badin's involvement in the hack, needed to support an extradition request.

Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, made a similar observation last month, after German prosecutors charged Badin, also confirming that Russia has yet to receive any formal evidence to support the charges.

"Lavrov is correct in stating that the German MFA has not shared the arrest warrant for Badin with the Russian ambassador," Stefan Soesanto, Senior Cyber Defence Researcher at the Center for Security Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, told ZDNet in an interview.

"There has also been no formal extradition request by the Germans for Badin," said Soesanto, who's been tracking the Badin case very closely, and has made a similar observation on Twitter last month.

The Swiss cybersecurity researcher believes that the charges are most likely a facade, and a clever backdrop in a more refined geopolitical conflict.

"Overall, the positions are pretty clear," Soesanto told ZDNet. "Moscow will never extradite Badin - as it would violate Russia's own constitution (article 61), and Berlin is eager to push EU cyber sanctions rather than actually having Badin in a German court talking about how bad the IT security in Bundestag was."

Soesanto also points out that it's currently unclear whether German officials have enough evidence to convict Badin in a German court.

Although Badin has also been charged in the US on similar charges of hacking US entities at the behest of the Russian government, his case or guilt isn't crystal clear in the US either.

Under international treaties and in the eyes of international law, Badin is an intelligence operative, which are excluded from legal prosecution for their actions, as long as they're acting at the behest of their state, and acting under orders -- as it appears to have been the case in Badin's involvement in the 2015 Bundestag hack.

Experts have pointed out that Washington was well aware of all of this and that its APT28 case wouldn't go anywhere, but the US used the charges to impose a series of sanctions on Russia, a blueprint that Germany also appears to be following.

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