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GERMANY AND RUSSIA

Germany probes claims of pre-election MP hacking by Russia

German federal prosecutors confirmed on Thursday that they are probing an alleged hacking attack against lawmakers ahead of this month's German election. Berlin has blamed Russia.

Germany probes claims of pre-election MP hacking by Russia
Russia is accused of trying to influence the results of the German elections by spreading disinformation through its notorious "Ghostwriter" group. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Alexander Zemlianichenko

“I can confirm that we have opened an investigation on suspicion of espionage,” a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told AFP when asked about accusations made this week by the German government about “phishing” attacks against MPs by Russian intelligence.

Berlin on Monday strongly criticised what it called Russian attempts to influence the September 26th election of a new parliament and Angela Merkel’s successor as chancellor.

It pointed the finger at hackers from Russia’s “Ghostwriter” group which reportedly specialises in spreading disinformation. German intelligence believes they have been trying to gain access to the private email accounts of federal and regional MPs.

German authorities say Russia’s military intelligence service GRU is behind the attacks and has targeted in particular politicians from Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats and Social Democrats.

READ ALSO: German man tried for spying on parliament for Russians

The head of German’s domestic intelligence service, Thomas Haldenwang, warned in July that such hackers had successfully made off with personal information that could be exploited in the weeks before the general election.

The case comes at a time of particularly fraught ties between Berlin and Moscow over a series of espionage cases, the poisoning and jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as well as repeated cyberattacks against the West.

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ENERGY

German regulator suspends Nord Stream 2 approval process

Germany's energy regulator said Tuesday it was temporarily halting the approval process for Russia's controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, saying the operating company first needs to become compliant with German law.

A sign reads
A sign reads "Info Point Nord Stream 2 Committed Reliable Safe" above a map at the natural gas receiving station in Lubmin, northern Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

The move is the latest setback for the 10-billion-euro project ($12 billion), which has been dogged by delays and become a geopolitical hot potato.

The Baltic Sea pipeline is set to double Russian gas supplies to Germany, which the EU’s top economy says is needed to help it transition away from coal and nuclear energy.

But opponents say the recently completed pipeline will increase Europe’s energy reliance on Russia.

Crucially, the pipeline also bypasses Ukraine’s gas infrastructure, depriving the country of much-needed transit fees.

The dispute comes as Europe, which receives a third of its gas from Russia, is battling surging energy prices just as the continent heads into the colder winter season.

German consumers have been warned that prices for energy are at their highest levels – and will increase further. 

READ ALSO:

Germany’s energy regulator said in a statement that “it would only be possible to certify an operator of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if that operator was organised in a legal form under German law.”

READ ALSO: Germany set to finish controversial Russian pipeline despite US protest

The certification procedure “will remain suspended until the main assets and human resources” have been transferred from the Nord Stream 2 parent company to its German subsidiary, that will own and operate the German part of the pipeline, it added.

Critics have accused Moscow of intentionally limiting gas supplies to Europe and driving up prices in an effort to hasten the launch of Nord Stream 2, a claim Russia denies.

Russian gas giant Gazprom said last week that it had begun implementing a plan to restock European gas storage facilities.

Germany’s energy regulator has four months, until January 2022, to give its green light for Nord Stream 2.

After that, the European Commission still needs to give its recommendation.

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