Reported treason arrests fuel hacking intrigue
In the days since it emerged that four men had been arrested on treason charges linked to cyber intelligence and Russia’s domestic security agency, conspiracy theories and speculation about the case have swept through Moscow.
Was it some fallout from the purported Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential election? Were they part of a hunt for a possible mole who tipped off American intelligence agencies? Was it a power struggle within Russia’s security services?
Specifics of the case are murky, and no Russian government officials have commented publicly.
Russian media have been filled with lurid, often contradictory, details that most assume are leaked by warring factions of intelligence officers.
Linking the arrests to the U.S. vote would mean joining the dots between a series of shadowy actors in the Russian internet world.
In one of the few formal acknowledgements of the case, Ivan Pavlov, a Russian defense lawyer specializing in treason cases, confirmed to the Associated Press that at least four arrests on treason charges had taken place. He declined to elaborate.
U.S. intelligence agencies alleged in early January that President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, with actions that included using a group called Fancy Bear to hack email accounts of individuals on the Democratic National Committee.
In an unclassified version of their report, the agencies did not disclose how the U.S. learned what it said it knows, and Russia has denied the accusations.
As U.S. president, Barack Obama imposed sanctions on renowned hackers Yevgeny Bogachyov and Alexei Belan for their alleged role in cooperating with the GRU, Russian military intelligence, to target the DNC.
Andrei Soldatov, who has studied the Russian security services and the internet for years, said the Moscow arrests clearly pointed to intelligence officers and criminal hackers working together to hack the Democrats.