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TECHNOLOGY

Merkel cites ‘hard evidence’ she was target of Russian hacking

German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced frustration Wednesday that Russia was targeting her in hacking action, saying she had concrete proof of the "outrageous" spying attempts.

Merkel cites 'hard evidence' she was target of Russian hacking
Photo: DPA

“I can honestly say that it pains me. Every day I try to build a better relationship with Russia and on the other hand there is such hard evidence that Russian forces are doing this,” she told parliament.

Germany's intelligence service has repeatedly called out attempts by Russian hackers to spy on lawmakers or leading politicians.

German media reported that among information copied by hackers in 2015 was data from Merkel's email account. That attack also targeted the Bundestag.

READ ALSO: Russia blamed for hacking attacks on Merkel and MPs

Merkel said investigators into the 2015 hacking had identified a specific suspect.

“Unfortunately the conclusion I have reached is that this is not new,” she said, noting that “cyber-disorientation, the distortion of facts” were all part of “Russia's strategy”.

“Obviously this doesn't make it easier” to foster a better relationship with Moscow, she said, calling such spying tactics “more than uncomfortable”.

Sanctions

Merkel has always stressed the importance of dialogue with Russia, even  while making clear her disapproval of Moscow's actions in different arenas — from annexing Ukraine's Crimea, to cyber meddling in elections and its backing of Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria.

The rogue operation that targetted the Bundestag in 2015 involved an  aggressive attack called Sofacy or APT 28 that had also struck NATO members and knocked French TV station TV5Monde off air.

According to Spiegel magazine, hackers managed to completely copy two of Merkel's email accounts containing correspondence dating between 2012 and 2015.

German media have also named the suspect as Dmitry Badin, who is also wanted by the FBI for other cyberattacks, including those targeting the Democrats during the 2016 US presidential election.

In a clear warning to Russia that their activities would not go unpunished, Merkel also pointed to last year's killing of a former Chechen commander in a Berlin park.

READ ALSO: Police probe Georgian's 'execution' in Berlin park

The shock 2019 murder has badly bruised ties between Moscow and Berlin, and  German prosecutors have already said they have evidence the killing was carried out on behalf of Russian or Chechen state agents.

“It of course disrupts a cooperation of trust and you know that in connection with the murder… we applied sanctions, in this case, expulsions (of Russian diplomats),” said Merkel.

“We now have the task of finding the wanted suspect, but of course we  always reserve the right to take measures — also against Russia, to be clear.”

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POLITICS

Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)
 

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.

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