Swiss officials issued a clear demand to Russia’s Foreign Ministry to cease their illegal spying efforts within their nation on Sunday, following the revelation of another case of espionage carried out by Russian operatives within the past week.
For the third time this year, the Swiss foreign ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to answer for alleged malign Russian activities within their borders, some of which have related to a laboratory used to research chemical weapons. The most recent attempt at Russian espionage also involved a laboratory (though details remain limited). It’s possible that there may have been a second attempt pertaining to the same facility.
“The Swiss Dept. Of Foreign Affairs has called on Russia to immediately end illegal activities on Swiss soil or against Swiss targets,” it said in a statement on Sunday.
According to a statement released by Switzerland’s intelligence agency on Friday, last week’s attempt at infiltrating a Swiss laboratory was foiled in part thanks to cooperation from international intelligence agencies out of the UK and Netherlands. Although there was no formal confirmation, outlets within Switzerland have been reporting that this recent attempt did involve the Spiez laboratory. This laboratory is tasked with research and analysis of chemical and biological weapons — notably including the Soviet era nerve agent known as Novichok, which Russia has been accused of using in a recent assassination attempt on UK soil.
The laboratory Russia is accused of attempting to access was the same one used to provide an independent analysis into that very Novichok attack, with samples of the nerve agent sent to the lab and, it’s reasonable to assume, are being stored as evidence. It is unclear if the attempted infiltration was physical however, as it remains possible the attack may have been cyber-related.
As has become a common facet of the daily news cycle, Russian officials found themselves once again denying allegations of sloppy spy-work being conducted on foreign soil. The attempted assassination of a former Russian military intelligence officer turned MI6 informant, Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury, England, earlier this year is widely believed to be a part of a broader crackdown on Kremlin leaks — using former defectors as an opportunity to set a precedent for Russian retribution. Intelligence assets within Moscow have reportedly gone silent, though assertions within the intelligence community are that the silence is self imposed among assets. With the Kremlin on the hunt for potential leaks that could compromise their hybrid warfare efforts (which include election manipulation and disinformation operations the world over) it has simply become too dangerous to cooperate with the West under the increased scrutiny.