Russian ambassador says there is ‘no sense’ in vaccine cyberattack allegations

Written by Alain Tolhurst and Kate Forrester on 21 July 2020 in News
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But foreign secretary Raab claims UK is ‘absolutely confident’ in attribution and was right to make public pronouncement

Credit: Ulrike Leone/Pixabay

Russia's ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin has dismissed claims his country's intelligence services launched a cyberattack to steal research into a coronavirus vaccine.

On Thursday a joint statement from the UK, the US and Canada said hackers APT29 had targeted research bodies looking into Covid-19 around the world, including in the UK. The National Cyber Security Centre said it was more than 95% certain the group, also known as The Dukes or Cozy Bear, was part of Russian intelligence services.

But speaking to BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show, Kelin said: "I don't believe in this story at all, there is no sense in it. I learned about their (the hackers) existence from British media. In this world, to attribute any kind of computer hackers to any country, it is impossible.”

The ambassador went on to dismiss a suggestion it would be an "advantage" for his country to know about vaccines being developed, pointing to the fact Russian pharmaceutical company R-Pharm had already entered a partnership with AstraZeneca to manufacture the vaccine being developed at the University of Oxford, should it prove effective.


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Also appearing on The Andrew Marr Show, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said that the UK and its allies had been right to call out Russia in a bid to deter the country from further “pariah-like behaviour”.

“[I am] absolutely confident that the Russian intelligence agencies were engaged in a cyberattack on research and development efforts...with a view either to sabotage or to profit,” Raab added. 

Responding to Kelin’s denials, the foreign secretary said: “of course he will be rolled out to trot out that line”.

He added: "Russia always does this when it's behaved in such an egregious way. They denied responsibility for the Salisbury attack in 2018… and it's important as with Salisbury, as with their cyberattacks, and the other nefarious behavior Russia engages in, we are going to hold them to account and call them out.” 

 

About the author

Alain Tolhurst and Kate Forrest are chief reporter and senior reporter for PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome,

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