Czech police arrest alleged Russian hacker in joint operation with FBI

Arrest comes after Washington formally accuse Kremlin of attempting to interfere in 2016 election by hacking

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Czech police carried out a joint operation with the FBI to arrest a Russian citizen in Prague suspected of staging cyber attacks on the United States.

Last week, Washington formally accused the Russian government of attempting to interfere with the 2016 election by hacking US political institutions – charges the Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed. 

However, there was no indication from Czech police the arrest in Prague was linked to the US claims.

“Czech police have successfully collaborated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),” police spokesman David Schon said in a statement posted on the force’s website on Wednesday.

“The aim of the operation was a Russian citizen suspected of hacking attacks on targets in the United States.”

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The arrest took place in a hotel in Prague city centre, the police statement said. The suspect was not identified by name and no date was given for his arrest. 

The suspect collapsed in police custody, it added, before he was given first aid and then hospitalised.

Czech judicial authorities will now rule on his extradition to the United States, the statement said. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed US threats of retaliation over alleged Russian hacks, saying such statements only confirmed Washington used cyber attacks for political ends.

On Friday, US Vice President Joe Biden told NBC News “we are sending a message” to Mr Putin, and retaliation for Russia’s hacking attacks “will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact”.

The CIA was preparing a retaliatory cyber attack “designed to harass and embarrass the Kremlin leadership,” NBC reported.

The US government officially accused Russia for the first time of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organisations ahead of the 8 November presidential election.

“The US Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organisations,” a statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said.

The Kremlin was propelled to the heart of American politics in July, after Hillary Clinton’s campaign blamed Russia for an embarrassing leak of emails from the Democratic National Committee.

Russia has been accused of favouring Republican candidate Donald Trump – who has praised Mr Putin and called for better ties with Moscow – over Ms Clinton, who is seen as more hawkish.

Russia’s relations with the US have fallen to their post-Cold War nadir over the conflict in Ukraine and stalled efforts to end the five-year Syrian war.

Additional reporting by AFP