Russian cyber operative wanted in connection with US election hacks arrested in Spain
A Russian hacker named Pyotr Levashov was arrested Friday in Spain. He is wanted in the U.S. for questioning in the investigation into Russian hacking of U.S. political parties and alleged meddling in the 2016 election.
Reuters reported Sunday that a spokesman for the Russian embassy said Leshov was arrested in Barcelona but would not comment on the nature of the charges, saying the Spanish government has not been forthcoming with that information.
Spanish government officials and police declined to comment on the details of the arrest on Sunday.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that — according to state-owned Russian TV network Russia Today (RT) — Leshov was arrested on a U.S. warrant in connection to hacking attacks that were part of a purported Russian disinformation campaign intended to swing the 2016 election to Donald Trump.
Reuters quoted Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal division, who said, “The U.S. case remains under seal, so we have no information to provide at this time.”
The criminal division of the Justice Department is separate from the national security branch. Typically the national security division handles cases related to state-sponsored cyber attacks, Reuters explained.
An unidentified Justice Department official told Reuters that the arrest was related to a criminal investigation with no national security connection.
The Russian embassy said that it received notification on Friday that Leshov has been arrested.
The Miami Herald reported in March that the U.S. is rounding up Russian hackers in a worldwide dragnet. In January, a Russian cyber operative known as “Lisov” was arrested, also by Spanish police.
The U.S. government has formally accused Russian intelligence agencies of mounting a massive online disinformation campaign using social media and software weapons known as “bots” to spread false and misleading stories and sway public opinion.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently probing whether campaign officials acting on behalf of President Donald Trump coordinated with Russian operatives in their effort to affect the outcome of the election.