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German foreign minister, EU nations say Russia will face consequences for cyberattack

BRUSSELS (AP) — Germany’s top diplomat on Friday said Russia will face consequences after accusing its military intelligence service of masterminding an “absolutely intolerable” cyberattack, and European Union member countries said they will not let “Russia’s malicious behavior in cyberspace” go unanswered.

Relations between Russia and Germany were already tense, with Germany providing military support to Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Russian state hackers were behind a cyberattack last year that targeted the Social Democrats, the leading party in the governing coalition.

“Russian state hackers attacked Germany in cyberspace,” she said at a news conference in the Australian city of Adelaide. “We can attribute this attack to the group called APT28, which is steered by the military intelligence service of Russia.”

“This is absolutely intolerable and unacceptable and will have consequences,” she said.

The Council of the EU later said that Czechia’s institutions have also been a target of the cyber campaign.

In a statement by the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, the bloc’s nations said they “strongly condemn the malicious cyber campaign conducted by the Russia-controlled Advanced Persistent Threat Actor 28 (APT28) against Germany and Czechia.”

The EU noted that it had previously imposed sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for APT28 attacks targeting the German parliament in 2015. It said it will not tolerate the continuation of such attacks, particularly with EU elections upcoming in June.

“The malicious cyber campaign shows Russia’s continuous pattern of irresponsible behavior in cyberspace, by targeting democratic institutions, government entities and critical infrastructure providers across the European Union and beyond,” Borrell said. “The EU and its Member States will continue to cooperate with our international partners to promote an open, free, stable and secure cyberspace.”

Baerbock is visiting Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, with the trip focusing on security policy as China pushes for influence in the Pacific region.

“The defense cooperation between Germany and Australia is close and we would like to deepen it further and together expand it, because we are in a situation where we face similar threats,” said Baerbock, who is the first German foreign minister to visit Australia in 13 years.

Discussions between Baerbock and Australia counterpart Penny Wong centered on the conflict in Gaza. “I think we all understand that the only path out of this cycle of violence that we see in the Middle East at such great cost is one that ultimately ensures a two-state solution,” Wong said.