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Three days before Trump sits down with Putin, the U.S. Justice Department indicts 12 Russian military intel officers

Three days before Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are set to meet in Helsinki, the U.S. Justice Department announced indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election against 12 Russian nationals, accusing them of orchestrating a campaign to “hack” emails and computer networks belonging to the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party in the last U.S. presidential election.

At a press conference on Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein broadly defended the special counsel’s investigation, arguing that “partisan warfare fueled by the Internet does not reflect the grace, dignity, and unity of the American people. The blame for election interference belongs solely to the criminals who committed election interference.”

The new Grand Jury indictment names a dozen supposed members of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, better known as the “GRU” (Glavnoe Razvedyvatelnoe Upravlenie). According to the allegations, “the GRU had multiple units [...] engaged in cyber operations that involved the staged release of documents stolen through computer intrusions. These units conducted large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

The indictment says the GRU slowly gathered the stolen data and gradually drew its plans to leak it to the public, presumably through Wikileaks, identified in the indictment as “a website maintained by an organization that had previously posted documents stolen from U.S. persons, entities, and the U.S. government.”

“GRU officers who knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other, and with persons known and known to the Grand Jury (collectively the ‘Conspirators’), to gain unauthorized access (to ‘hack’) into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” says the Justice Department.

The GRU officers allegedly targeted emails belonging to “volunteers and employees of the U.S. presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton,” and the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee. “The Conspirators covertly monitored the computers of dozens of DCCC and DNC employees, implanted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code (‘malware’), and stole emails and other documents,” says the indictment. The Russian agents supposedly started planning to release the stolen materials “in or around April 2016,” and began “in or around June 2016,” using “fictitious online personas, including ‘DCLeaks’ and ‘Guccifer 2.0.’”

“To hide their connections to Russia and the Russian government, the Conspirators used false identities and made false statements about their identities. To further avoid detection, the Conspirators used a network of computers located across the world, including in the United States, and paid for this infrastructure using cryptocurrency,” U.S. investigators claim.

The 12 suspects. The Russian officers named in the indictment are Viktor Netyksho, Boris Antonov, Dmitry Badin, Ivan Yermakov, Aleksey Lukashev, Sergey Morgachev, Nikolai Kozachek, Pavel Yershov, Artem Maylshev, Aleksandr Osadchuk, Aleksey Potemkin, and Anatoly Kovalev. They supposedly served in the GRU units 26165 and 74455.

In October 2017, The Insider published a special report accusing Russian military intelligence of hacking French President Emmanuel Macron’s emails. The website tied a man named Georgy Roshka to the cyber-attack, finding that he served in GRU unit 26165 (one of the two units named in the new U.S. indictment), which reportedly specializes in “cryptoanalysis.” Responding to the Justice Department’s indictment on July 13, The Insider said, “Roshka isn’t among the names listed in the charges, but his colleagues are.”

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