The German government has officially proposed that the European Union impose sanctions on Russians responsible for the massive hacking of the Bundestag five years ago, the German Press Agency reported Sunday.

If approved, the plan, which was recommended by Berlin last month, would be the first use of an EU cyber sanctions regime adopted in 2017.

The details of the proposal were revealed in response to a parliamentary inquiry submitted by the German socialist Left Party and reviewed by the news agency.

The German government believes Russian intelligence is behind a 2015 network hack where there are an estimated 16 gigabytes of data, documents and e-mail sucked up from the Bundestag IT network, including thousands of emails from Merkel’s Bundestag office.

That is the biggest cyber hacking ever done to the Bundestag.

Read more: Opinion: Bundestag are victims of their own naivete

The German government defends the proposal

In May, the German attorney general issued a warrant for the arrest of Russian citizen Dmitry Badin, who was “highly suspected of being responsible” for the attack and who was a “member of the APT28 group,” responding to the inquiry.

Germany also believes a hacker from the Russian military secret service GRU is involved.

On 3 June 2020, the government “strengthened the sanction proposal within the EU framework by presenting a comprehensive package of evidence based on the results of the German investigative authority and intelligence information and publicly available sources.”

This information is sent to other EU member countries for consideration. The decision of the block is still awaiting decision.

The government’s response confirmed that Germany was following up threat to Russian Ambassador Sergei Nechayev in May after an arrest warrant for Badin was issued.

The left says there is “no evidence” of Russian government involvement

“Maybe the Russians are behind the ‘Bundestag hacking’, but maybe it’s a fake clue intended to get rid of the scent. In any case, to this day there is no evidence of Russian government involvement in hacking attacks,” said Andrej Hunko, European policy spokesman for the Left Party parliamentary group.

Hunko opposed the sanction proposal.

Read more: Is Russia behind the 2015 cyber attack on the German parliament?

Following an earlier investigation from the German Federal Attorney General, Chancellor Angela Merkel referred to “strong evidence” about Russia’s involvement in an “outrageous” operation.

In 2017, the European Council developed a framework for joint EU diplomatic responses to dangerous cyber activities, known as the “EU Cyber ​​Diplomacy Toolbox.”

The framework is aimed “at individuals or groups, not countries,” the German government emphasized in its response.

In the case of the 2015 attack on the Bundestag, the answer said, “The federal government assumes that danger continues to originate from the originator. “

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