The head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) has denied that his agency was behind the SolarWinds cyberattack, which was blamed on Moscow by both U.S. and British intelligence officials and resulted in U.S. sanctions against Russia.
In the attack, which was discovered in December, hackers slipped malicious code into updates of network-management software made by the U.S. company SolarWinds, which was then downloaded by several branches of the U.S. government and several U.S. and European corporations.
The move led to the compromise of nine U.S. federal agencies and hundreds of private-sector companies.
"The claims are like a bad detective novel," SVR Director Sergei Naryshkin told the BBC in Russian on May 18. Naryshkin is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Asked by the BBC if the SVR was responsible for the SolarWinds attack, Naryshkin retorted that he would be "flattered" if the SVR had been responsible for such an attack but that he could not "claim the creative achievements of others as his own."
Russia's spy chief suggested that the tactics of the operation were similar to those used by U.S. and British intelligence agencies.
Naryshkin also disclosed that contact has been reestablished between the SVR and the head of Britain's MI6 secret intelligence service. He voiced hope that a face-to-face meeting will soon take place.
Tensions between Russia and the West continue to grow over issues including the SolarWinds cyberattack but also the military threats to Ukraine, and Russia's treatment of jailed opposition activist Aleksei Navalny.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has already imposed sanctions and expelled Russian diplomats over the multiple U.S. complaints about Russia's activities, prompting Moscow to respond with tit-for-tat measures against U.S. diplomats.