When that failed, a GRU "close access" team was sent from Russian Federation to the Netherlands to try to penetrate their cyber defences from close quarters. But not in this case: the Russians were nabbed in a hotel parking lot next to the OPCW office in a vehicle packed with gear created to tap into the agency's Wi-Fi network.
The Dutch government said the Russians were later found with a auto full of electronic equipment in the vehicle park of a hotel close to the OPCW building. Instead, the four were immediately escorted out of the country, he added. "It was a successful operation".
He said one of their mobile phones was found to have been activated near the GRU building in Moscow, while another carried a receipt for a taxi journey from a street near the GRU to the airport.
"They were clearly not here on holiday", said Eichelsheim.
'It is quite possible that they did not want to put the relationship with Russian Federation at risk by a criminal investigation against these four people in the Netherlands'.
But a federal indictment announced on Thursday charges that Russian spies waged a long-running campaign to undermine investigations into doping activities by Russian athletes during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He told US President Donald Trump during a July summit in Helsinki that talk of Russian Federation meddling in the 2016 election was "nonsense".
The Russians were tracked by Dutch and British secret services from their arrival in Amsterdam on diplomatic passports in April, and then seen hiring a Citroen vehicle which they parked outside the Marriott hotel next to the OPCW.
"Western spy mania is gathering pace", a Russian foreign ministry representative told AFP.
Two of the officers were planning to travel on to Switzerland where the OPCW - which was at the time investigating the Salisbury attack and a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria - has laboratories.
Yermakov, Malyshev, and Badin were among the 12 GRU officers indicted in July this year by Mueller, over alleged interference in the USA polls of 2016.
South China Sea: Chinese warship almost
The U.S. would "continue to fly , sail and operate anywhere global law allows", said Gorman, the Pacific Fleet spokesman. US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers flew through both the East and South China Sea last week.
The 29 allies are discussing cybersecurity at talks in Brussels, with the US, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands due to announce that they will provide offensive cyber-capabilities for use by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice's announcement, these individuals were part of a campaign to retaliate and delegitimize the global anti-doping organizations who exposed a Russian state-sponsored athlete doping program.
The GRU, Britain said, was nearly certainly behind the BadRabbit and World Anti-Doping Agency hacking attacks of 2017, the hack of the U.S. Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2016 and the theft of emails from a UK-based TV station in 2015.
"The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has identified that a number of cyber actors widely known to have been conducting cyber attacks around the world are, in fact, the GRU", the NCSC claimed in a statement.
The announcement could further strain relations between Russia and Britain that began to deteriorate with the 2006 assassination of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko with polonium in London.
British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said that these were "not the actions of a great power, this is the actions of a pariah state".
The US has made similar accusations against Russian Federation for conducting cyber attacks.
"These acts form part of a broader pattern of activities by the Russian government that lie well outside the bounds of appropriate behaviour, demonstrate a disregard for worldwide law and undermine the rules-based global order", it read.
"Cyberspace is not the Wild West", Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a joint statement.