In what is probably the most serious development which may relate to the ongoing row about whether or not the US presidential election was hacked, Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrested a number of people suspected of cyber espionage.
In fact, according to Reuters, those arrested have been charged with treason, which if proved carries the death penalty in most countries, although Russia has indefinitely suspended capital punishment and has not executed anyone since 1996.
Putin, a former KGB foreign intelligence officer who still rules the capitalist-communist-oligarchic hybrid state through old-school command-and-control techniques, had been said by US security agencies to have personally ordered the hacking of the US election for his own benefit.
“We assess,” said the US spy agencies in a joint report, “the Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.”
New US President Donald Trump had initially dismissed the allegations of election-tampering as “ridiculous” but was then apparently forced by intelligence operatives to concede that Russia was “consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions”.
Putin’s spymasters denied US allegations of election-hacking, but outgoing President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats over the argument.
Now, KGB spy Putin has arrested two officers from the Russian Federal Security Service and an employee of security firm Kaspersky Lab and charged then with committing treason – allegedly to help the United States.
Ivan Pavlov, a trained lawyer representing one of the three accused, said the three men were Ruslan Stoyanov, head of Kaspersky’s computer incidents investigation team, and two officers working for the FSB’s Information Security Centre, Sergei Mikhailov and Dmitry Dokuchayev.
In comments published by Reuters, Pavlov said: “My client, along with the others, has been charged with state treason and cooperating with US intelligence services.”
Although the arrests have not been directly linked with the alleged hacking of the US presidential elections, the timing would suggest some connection.
US spying authorities claim the Russians helped Trump to win the election by releasing information to the public that would damage his rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, the US government has increased its annual cybersecurity budget by 35 per cent since last year, rising from $14 billion in 2016 to $19 billion this year.
Russia and China are among the many other nations whose governments have increased cybersecurity budgets.
In total, says Cybersecurity Ventures, $1 trillion will be spent globally on cybersecurity from 2017 to 2021. The company includes private-sector spending in its figures.