Date: 16 July 2018

Russia’s GRU: Front-Line Service in the War with the West

A federal grand jury in the United States charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with carrying out hacking activities during the 2016 presidential campaign. The media have also reported that either former or current GRU officers had been responsible for the attempted assassination of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. This is another accusation against Russian military intelligence. Thus, the GRU is gradually becoming the special service of Putin’s regime, responsible for front-line fights with the West.


On July 13, the federal grand jury of the United States announced charges against 12 officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, as part of the U.S. investigation into the Russian involvement in the presidential election. The indictment was secured by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The United States Department of Justice reported that the Russians were accused of hacking Democratic computer networks and stealing large amounts of data. The Russian officers created a web-based Guccifera 2.0 character and a DC leak portal; both of them were used to publish information, political emails and alleged leaks. The U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats stated that Russia is “the most aggressive foreign player in American cyberspace”. Also Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen confirmed that U.S. intelligence services were monitoring the continuous Russian efforts to divide members of the American society with the use of social media and other resources. Russia’s Foreign Ministry reacted in the same way as everyone had expected. Its representatives claimed that there was no evidence that 12 Russians were anyhow connected with the GRU or they hacked U.S. servers. Moreover, such indictment aimed to prevent the USA and Russia from normalising its bilateral relations, which seems to explain why it had been announced right before the Helsinki summit.

The accused Russians served in military units no. 26165 and no. 74455. The first group has been involved in infiltrating the e-mail account of Emmanuel Macron. The unit also targeted such facilities as the White House as well as Foreign Ministries of such countries as the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany and many others. The hackers aimed also to break into servers of defense ministries of the NATO countries, the Bundestag, the OSCE as well as foreign media. Thus, military intelligence plays a major role in activities in cyberspace. For example, the GRU appeared a way more effective in industrial espionage during the Cold War era. The second conclusion is that military intelligence is the most aggressive Russian service in terms of external activities, as evidenced by the GRU’s role in the war campaign in Donbas and Russia’s military intervention in Syria. For years, military intelligence has been responsible for conducting activities against Georgia. Now the GRU’s activity can also be noticed in the Balkans. Military intelligence agents sought to torpedo the recent Greek-Macedonian agreement as they had intention to overturn the current government in Skopje. Earlier, the GRU had organised an unsuccessful coup d’état in Montenegro. Now the GRU has been accused of conspiracy by the USA (officially) and Great Britain (so far unofficially).

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