RUSSIAN CYBER ATTACKS ON COVID RESEARCH CENTERS

RUSSIAN CYBER ATTACKS ON COVID RESEARCH CENTERS

Representative
Richard Hudson
Washington, DC
United States
House of Representatives
116th Congress
Second Session
Congressional Record, Vol. 166
No. 130
Thursday, July 23, 2020

Madam Speaker, I rise today to strongly condemn the recently reported Russian cyber attacks on United States, United Kingdom and Canadian COVID-19 research centers.

As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Vladimir Putin's regime has once again lived up to its reputation for lawlessness and cynicism by targeting vaccine research and development organizations with ``the intention of stealing information and intellectual property relating to the development and testing of COVID-19 vaccines,'' as assessed by U.S., British and Canadian intelligence agencies.

Sadly, neither this appalling cyber attack, nor the pitiful Kremlin denials which followed, are too surprising to those of us who watch Russia closely.

As a Member of the U.S. Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe--the OSCE PA--and Chairman of the Committee on Political Affairs and Security, I regularly participate in difficult discussions with Russian political leaders about Moscow's geopolitical misconduct. The Kremlin's campaign across the OSCE space and beyond is aimed at destabilizing and undermining the international order by any means necessary, to include the invasion and occupation of OSCE participating States, the assassination of political opponents abroad, disinformation and more. On July 7, 2020, I communicated directly to the OSCE PA which included the presence of the Russian head of delegation how seriously the United States is taking reports of Russian monetary bounties to Taliban-linked insurgents for the killing of American and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan. The fact of Kremlin support to the Taliban had already surfaced in a hearing of the United States Helsinki Commission which I chaired on June 12, 2019, in open testimony by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia Michael Carpenter.

Madam Speaker, I will continue to work with colleagues here at home and across the Atlantic to ensure the Kremlin's bald faced denials of its malign actions are countered, and that Vladimir Putin's regime faces the appropriate consequences for its actions. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has proven time and again its value as a forum to counter disinformation and foster cooperation to counter common threats. A result of these most recent reports, I intend to advocate for that body to prioritize results-oriented discussions on state-sponsored cyber attacks in our region in its upcoming work session.

Madam Speaker, please join me in condemning the Kremlin's latest despicable actions.

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    Between February 3, 1977 and June 1, 1978, twenty Soviet citizens active in the defense of human rights in five different Republics were arrested and imprisoned; two others, traveling abroad on Soviet passports, were stripped of their citizenship and denied the right to return to the USSR. All are members of the Public Groups to Promote Observance of the Helsinki Agreement in the USSR (the Soviet Helsinki Watch) or, in the case of two men, of its subsidiary Working Commission to Investi­gate the Abuse of Psychiatry for Political Purposes. The twenty-one men and one woman are being punished under a variety of different criminal charges. Their "crime," however, is identical: political dissent, ex­pressed in the non-violent, open effort to spur Soviet authorities to implement the human rights and humanitarian undertakings of the August 1975 Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Accord.) The following study by the staff of the U. S. Commission on . Security and Cooperation in Europe examines the workings of Soviet law and criminal procedure as applied in these cases of political dissent. It discusses the guarantees of Soviet law, including international covenants ratified by the USSR, against arbitrary arrest and unfair trial and compares those to the practices used against the Helsinki Watchers. From the study it is evident that those guarantees -- both substantive and procedural -- have been repeatedly violated in the persecution and prosecution of the twenty-two human rights activists. The violations uncovered range from improper conduct of pre-arrest house searches through illegally prolonged pre-trial detention to unlawful denial of the rights of the defense at the trial. This pattern of official conduct toward free, but dissenting political expression is not new in the Soviet Union. In the treatment of the Soviet Helsinki Watch, however, it has been systematic and can be termed, without question, a gross and intentional violation of both the pledges in the Final Act and the safeguards promised by the Soviet Constitution, Criminal Codes and Codes of Criminal Procedure.

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Its publication stimulated significant expectations of change in governmental conduct. Those expectations, however, have been dashed in some instances, realized only partially in many others. Signatories have been obliged by a variety of political considerations to move cautiously, if at all, to tailor their foreign or domestic conduct to the specifications endorsed at the Helsinki summit of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Having "declare[d] their determination to act in accordance with the provisions contained" in the Final Act,2 the participating states have -- with a few significant exceptions -- generally continued to act with limited regard for the undertakings they gave one another on August 1, 1975. The Final Act was meant to give an impulse toward a common code of European and North Atlantic diplomatic and civil conduct. Both an expression of and a political stimulus to the process of international detente, the Final Act is also, quite specifically, a framework for relaxation of East-West tensions and the promotion of more stable relations between different and differing social systems. As a nonbinding declaration of intentions (not a treaty), however, it could do no more than define aspirations and outline the manner in which they were to be met. The record of its implementation is the test of its impact. The record of the first 2 years has been more productive than the Commission expected, though far short of the high promises which the language of the Final Act holds forth. Signatory nations have treated the document seriously, though respect for some of its provisionsparticularly in the area of human rights -- has not matched either the commitments given nor the hopes those pledges aroused. 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    In light of first anniversary of the creation of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, this hearing focused on the work and the plight of courageous individuals who utilized the Helsinki accords as instruments for advancing international respect for human rights. In particular, the hearing delved into the case of Anatoly Shcharansky, one of the most courageous spokesmen of human rights in the U.S.S.R., faces treason charges as groundless as they are ominous. The Soviet decision to hold a show trial for Shcharansky with phony evidence and counterfeit witnesses combined with the earlier arrest of members of Helsinki monitoring groups in Russia, Ukraine, and most recently, in Georgia, were in violation of the Helsinki accords.

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    This hearing focused on the implementation of the Helsinki Accords and explored proposals for advancing compliance.  The Commissioners and witnesses discussed how the accords could better East-West relations. They discussed how the framework of the Helsinki accords helps provide protection against armed intervention in internal affairs, or the threat of such intervention.  The Commissioners heard testimonies from those working on human rights in Warsaw Pact countries and from many American citizens seeking reunification with relatives in Warsaw Pact countries.

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