Two Russian treason suspects, including a former FSB agent, sign partial plea bargains
Two of the four suspects in a Russian treason case, including a former agent in the FSB’s Information Security Center, have reportedly signed plea bargains where they confess to transferring data to foreign intelligence agencies. Three sources have confirmed to the magazine RBC that former FSB agent Dmitry Dokuchaev and entrepreneur Georgy Fomchenkov reached deals with prosecutors.
One of RBC’s sources says the two suspects claim to have shared information with foreign intelligence agencies “informally,” denying that there was anything criminal about the exchange. Dokuchaev and Fomchenkov say they were only trying to help punish cyber-criminals operating outside Russia and therefore outside their jurisdiction. Lawyers for the two suspects refused to comment on the story.
As a result of the plea bargains, the two men’s trials will be fast-tracked in a special procedure where the evidence collected against them isn’t reviewed. Dokuchaev and Fomchenkov will also face lighter sentences — no more than two-thirds of Russia’s maximum 20-year sentence for treason, says one of RBC’s sources.
The other two suspects in the treason case, former FSB Information Security Center agent Sergey Mikhailov and former Kaspersky Lab computer incidents investigations head Ruslan Stoyanov, have reportedly turned down plea bargains, insisting on their innocence.
Police detained the four suspects in December 2016, and they’ve been held at Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison ever since. On Wednesday, April 4, a military court is expected to sanction the latest extension of their arrests.
Little is known about the treason charges against Dokuchaev, Fomchenkov, Mikhailov, and Stoyanov. The case is classified and the suspects’ lawyers are barred from disclosing any details, though one attorney did previously reveal that the men are accused of helping the United States.
According to one theory, the arrests could be part of an investigation into a DDoS attack on the “Assist” electronic payment system in July 2010, which prevented Aeroflot customers from buying e-tickets for several days. A court later convicted Pavel Vrublevsky, the founder of the competing “Chronopay” payment system, of orchestrating the attack, and sentenced him to two and a half years in prison. Mikhailov and Dokuchaev worked on that case with help from Kaspersky Lab.
After Mikhailov and the three others were arrested in December 2016, Vrublevsky told the newspaper Kommersant that he’d gone to the feds back in 2010 and warned them about “illegal activities” by this group that “might qualify as treason.”
Citing its own sources, the newsletter The Bell, meanwhile, has reported that Mikhailov and the others may have leaked information about Russian hacker attacks against the Democratic Party in the U.S. in the spring of 2016, pointing out that the FBI and NSA published a joint report at the end of that year accusing Moscow of orchestrating hacker attacks against American political targets in an effort to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.
One of RBC’s sources familiar with the treason case previously said the classified information could have been passed to the CIA through Kimberly Zenz, a former senior cyber-threat analyst at the American company iDefense. Zenz acknowledged to RBC that Ruslan Stoyanov’s lawyer contacted her. She says she provided him a statement that was shared with investigators, where she maintains that she does not work for the CIA, never turned over any data, and has never worked as a government agent for any country. She also stated that she never paid Ruslan Stoyanov for any information.
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