The “Fancy Bears” hacking group, also known as “Tsar Team” or “APT28”, have targeted even more Olympic athletes this week. Previously, the hackers leaked medical records belonging to several US Olympians, including Simone Biles, Elena Delle Donne, and both of the Williams sisters. In the follow-up release, they’ve begun to target international athletes as well, including Mo Farah and Rafael Nadal.
The leaked records almost exclusively focus on individuals with therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) that allow them to take certain medications that would otherwise be banned during competition.
While these hacks were initially believe to be a direct retaliation for WADA’s investigation into Russian state-sponsored cheating, it’s beginning to seem more complicated than that. This is the fourth batch of records and so far the leaks have primarily targeted athletes from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Spain and Denmark. While Russia still denies any official involvement, it’s getting harder to believe, as all but one of the countries targeted have, in some way or another, angered Putin’s regime.
The US, UK and Denmark all prominently took part in the recent airstrikes that killed several Syrian government workers, allegedly by accident. In response, someone bombed a UN and Red Cross aid convey bringing food to people on the outskirts of Aleppo, though Assad and Russia are denying their involvement. These strikes have seemed to underscore that, what started as a regional dispute, has now become something of a proxy war, with Russia backing Assad and others supporting rebel forces in the region. The presence of Daesh fighters in the area has complicated matters further. Following the accidental bombing of government workers, Russia’s foreign ministry accused the United States of actively supporting ISIS.
Spain and Canada are similarly both involved in a NATO coalition forming in Latvia to prevent a possible Russian incursion into the region. Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis has stressed the need for a stronger NATO presence in the country following the annexation of Crimea.
While Spain is one of the EU countries with the closest ties to Russia, their relationship with the Kremlin is far from stable. Though they’ve been criticized by pro-NATO groups for “allowing Russian Navy vessels to refuel” in their territory, the Spanish authorities have also issued arrest warrants for a number of Russian officials with close ties to Putin’s administration. The authorities claim the individuals in question have strong ties to organized crime, specifically the the Tambov gang, and charges will include murder, drug smuggling, arms trafficking, extortion, money laundering and fraud. The list contains several high-profile Russian figures, including Vladislav Reznik, a prominent MP for Putin’s United Russia party.
The “Fancy Bears” leaks also targeted athletes from Australia, Belgium, Burundi, France, Germany and Hungary, all of whom have reasons to be at odds with Russia’s administration. In fact, Burundi is also at the center of US-Russian dispute currently playing out in the background of a documented humanitarian crisis.
Of course, the connection between these events and the hacking scandal is all speculation at this point, but it’s somewhat odd that the only nation mentioned in these leak that doesn’t fit the pattern is Argentina, who have recently begun trying to strengthen their ties to Russia.
While it’s unclear whether these hacks are in any way connected to the Russian government, one thing is certain: it appears our relations with the former Soviet Union could use some improvements.