NRC Handelsblad and the Swiss media outlet Tages-Anzeiger report that two Russian spies were detained in the Netherlands at the beginning of the year. They were attempting to obtain data from a radiological and chemical-radiological analysis laboratory that participated in the investigation of chemical attacks in Syria and the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury, London.
The Russians tried to get into the laboratory in the Swiss city of Spiez. The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service confirmed that it took part in the operation. “The Federal Intelligence Service took an active part in this operation with its Dutch and British partners,” said the agency’s Communications Director Isabelle Graber.
Graber also emphasized that the operation also contributed to “the prevention of illegal actions against critical Swiss infrastructure.”
The laboratory’s representative, Andreas Bucher said that he could not comment on the intelligence service's report but confirmed that the laboratory was previously attacked by hackers. They pretended to be laboratory employees and distributed invitations to the chemical weapon conference scheduled for September. “We were ready for this and so the data was safe,” the representative said.
The detainees were deported to Russia. The press service of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service refused to give any comments on the situation.
Sergei Skripal, a former agent of the GRU (Russia’s Intelligence Directorate) and his daughter Julia were poisoned in March in Salisbury, London, Great Britain. On March 12, British Prime Minister Theresa May stated in parliament that they had been poisoned with the neuro-paralytic agent Novichok, which was developed in Russia.
On September 5, the British police presented the names and photos of suspects in the poisoning of the Skripal family. They were Russian citizens Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. According to British authorities, they are employees of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Federation. The suspects themselves stated that they went to Salisbury as tourists and spent only an hour there.