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Russian military officers charged in vast hacking campaign, including 2018 Winter Olympics

WASHINGTON -- Six current and former Russian military officers sought to disrupt through computer hacking the French election, the 2018 Winter Olympics and U.S. businesses, according to a Justice Department indictment unsealed Monday that details attacks on a broad range of political, financial and athletic targets.

The indictment accuses the defendants, all alleged officers in the Russian military agency known as the GRU, of taking part in destructive attacks on Ukraine's power grid; a hack-and-leak effort directed at the political party of French President Emmanuel Macron in the days leading up to the 2017 election; and efforts to impede an investigation into the suspected nerve-agent poisoning of a former spy and his daughter.

The indictment does not charge the defendants in connection with interference in American elections, though the officers are part of the same military intelligence unit that prosecutors say interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by hacking Democratic email accounts.

The 50-page indictment, filed in federal court in Pittsburgh, focuses instead on attacks that prosecutors said were aimed at promoting Russia's geopolitical interests. Those include cyberattacks that targeted the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where Russian athletes were banned because of a state-sponsored doping effort.

None of the six defendants is currently in custody, but the Justice Department in recent years has eagerly charged foreign hacker in absentia with the goal of creating a message of deterrence.

"No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite," said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department's top national security official.

He called it "the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group."

After Russia was punished by the International Olympic Committee for a vast doping conspiracy at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, hackers targeted sports agencies around the world.

More than 250 athletes' medical records were published and confidential data from some of the world's biggest sports organizations -- the Olympics, world track and field, FIFA -- were stolen in what U.S. prosecutors said was retaliation for the doping punishments.

Other Olympic-related organizations were also hit by hackers: the world track and field body, which suspended Russia in 2015 over widespread doping; Canada's anti-doping agency, a trenchant critic of Russia; and the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled against some Russian athletes.