Denmark Says ‘Key Elements’ of Russian Government Hacked Defense Ministry

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Denmark’s defense minister, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, last week. He blamed Moscow for cyberattacks against the Danish Defense and Foreign Ministries. Credit Ints Kalnins/Reuters

MOSCOW — The Kremlin on Monday denied accusations that “key elements” of the Russian government had hacked into email accounts at Denmark’s Defense Ministry over the last two years in a sustained cyberattack.

A new report by the Danish government’s Center for Cybersecurity said that hackers had breached email accounts and servers at both the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry in 2015 and 2016. The hackers gained access to login information but did not obtain any classified information from the compromised Defense Ministry accounts, the report said.

Denmark faces a “very high” threat of cyberespionage against both the government and private companies, according to the report from the center, an arm of the Danish Defense Intelligence Service. It emphasized that the attacks were all connected and part of a constant threat.

Although the report, made public on Sunday, did not name Russia, Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen blamed Moscow in his remarks to the Danish news media.

“This is part of a continuing war from the Russian side in this field, where we are seeing a very aggressive Russia,” Mr. Hjort Frederiksen told the Danish news agency Ritzau. “The hacked emails don’t contain military secrets, but it is of course serious.”

The attack was well organized, he was quoted as saying by the Berlingske daily newspaper. “It’s connected to the intelligence agencies or key elements of the Russian government, and it’s an eternal struggle to keep them away,” he said.

Dmitri S. Peskov, the spokesman for the Kremlin, dismissed the accusations, as Russia does regularly with any hacking allegations.

“Russia does not do hacking attacks,” Mr. Peskov told reporters at his daily briefing. “We would like to understand what he is talking about and what became the basis for these statements.”

The Danish report named the hacking agent as APT 28 and cited various other aliases, including Fancy Bear, Sofacy and Pawn Storm.

Investigators in the United States have identified Fancy Bear — believed to be directed by the G.R.U., Russia’s military intelligence agency — as responsible for hacking into the email system at the Democratic National Committee last year, an accusation the Kremlin denied.

The Danish report said that the attempt to hack the Foreign Ministry had failed, but that some email accounts at the Defense Ministry had been copied. Those workers could be subject to blackmail or recruitment, the report said.

Neither the report nor the defense minister provided details of who or what departments had been targeted.

Some policy analysts in Denmark dismissed the accusations as part of the lobbying over a new Defense Ministry budget, while other politicians and officials criticized the defense minister for suggesting that there would be no consequences for Russia.

Denmark has been the target of Russian ire before, in the tensions between Europe and the Kremlin that arose in 2014 over the Ukraine crisis. At that time, Russia threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Danish warships if the country joined NATO’s missile defense system.

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