Russia Seeks 20 Years for Cyber-Cops in U.S.-Linked Treason Case

(Bloomberg) -- Prosecutors in the treason trial of a top former Russian cybersecurity officer who was allegedly compromised by U.S. intelligence are seeking a 20-year prison term.

While few details have emerged about the secret case at Moscow district military court, there have been tantalizing threads potentially linking the central figures to espionage, election hacking and the breach of hundreds of millions of Yahoo! Inc email accounts.

Prosecutors are asking for the maximum sentence when the court delivers its verdict on Feb. 26, according to two people familiar with the case, who asked not be identified because they’re not authorized to discuss it. The accused are Sergei Mikhailov, who worked in the Federal Security Service’s information-security division, and Ruslan Stoyanov, who’s a manager at Kaspersky Lab cybersecurity company.

The court confirmed the hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26. Two other men charged during the investigation, businessman Georgiy Fomchenkov and Dmitry Dokuchaev, a member of Mikhailov’s staff, have pleaded guilty to U.S. ties and will be sentenced later, the people said. Dokuchaev is also accused by U.S. officials of involvement in hacking a half-billion Yahoo email accounts.

‘Having Contacts’

The men were all arrested in late 2016, shortly after Donald Trump became U.S. president-elect. The Kremlin later dismissed suggestions of links between the case and alleged Russian interference in the U.S. elections, which it denies. Mikhailov, Dokuchaev and Stoyanov were charged with treason for allegedly “having contacts with” U.S. intelligence, according to Ivan Pavlov, a defense lawyer in the case, who said in 2017 that officials had provided few details and “what we know is only the tip of the iceberg.”  

Stoyanov, a former Interior Ministry cybersecurity officer, worked closely with Mikhailov’s department at the FSB as part of an anti-DDoS project that Kaspersky Lab developed for clients in Russia, according to a person familiar with the company.

“The case against this employee does not involve Kaspersky Lab” and predates his employment at the company, spokeswoman Olga Rodicheva said Thursday by email. “We do not possess details of the investigation,” she said.

Stoyanov accused Russian authorities in a 2017 letter of cooperating with cybercriminals and warned of “a new wave of crimes inside the country” if they didn’t stop.

Data Disc

Mikhailov and the others were indirectly interacting with the FBI, Kommersant reported Wednesday, citing court documents. They shared classified files with a cybersecurity expert, Kimberly Zenz, whom the FSB accused of having ties to the FBI, according to the newspaper. Stoyanov flew to Canada in 2011 at Mikhailov’s request to hand a data disc to Zenz, Kommersant reported.

Mikhailov insists he’s innnocent and reports linking him to a data disc are “complete rubbish,” his lawyer Ruslan Golenkov said by phone Thursday.

“I’m not a government agent and never have been,” Zenz said Thursday in a Facebook message, adding that “there’s no evidence some sort of compact disc was handed over because it never happened.” While she’s known Stoyanov for more than 10 years as an “internationally respected cybercrime investigator who loves his country,” she’s never had contact with the other accused, Zenz said.

“Unfortunately, the court doesn’t know this because it rejected my request to testify,” she said. “The situation is very sad.”

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