The European Union imposed sanctions on the head of Russia’s military intelligence, Igor Kostyukov, and another Russian on Thursday, accusing them of stealing Angela Merkel’s emails in a 2015 hacking attack on the German parliament.
Russia in May denied the accusations as a “hackneyed story” and said the EU lacked evidence.
The sanctions on the head of the GRU military intelligence agency follow similar asset freezes and travel bans imposed last week on officials close to President Vladimir Putin in response to the alleged poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
The new measures were disclosed the EU’s Official Journal. In addition to Kostyukov, they target Dmitry Badin, accused of being the hacker who orchestrated the attack, as well as the so-called 85th Main Centre, or Centre 85, the GRU unit used to carry it out, also known as the GRU Special Services division.
“A significant amount of data was stolen and email accounts of several MPs as well as of Chancellor Angela Merkel were affected,” the Official Journal said of the attack, which targeted Merkel’s constituency office.
Kostyukov, head of the GRU’s general staff, was responsible for targeting the German parliament’s information system, the Official Journal said.
Badin is accused of being part of the hacker group known as APT 28, or Fancy Bear, which the United States has also accused of targeting the U.S. Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
The new sanctions and the earlier ones imposed over Navalny mark a hardening of the EU’s response to what it views as Russian attempts to destabilise the bloc’s democracies. Navalny has been recuperating in Germany from what Berlin says was poisoning with a banned nerve agent in Siberia.
The Russian government has denied previous allegations of hacking abroad, including U.S. accusations it was responsible for leaking emails of Democrats in 2016 as part of an effort to help Donald Trump win the US presidential election.
Western countries have accused Russia’s military intelligence agency of running a global hacking campaign, targeting institutions from sports anti-doping bodies to a nuclear power company and the chemical weapons watchdog OPCW.