Germany's prosecutor general has launched a probe into recent cyberattacks that targeted a number of German politicians amid suspicions that Russian intelligence could be involved.
Earlier in the week, the German government protested sharply against alleged Russian attempts to influence the country's September 26 federal elections.
There are fears that foreign intelligence services could use the hacks to publish personal information about the victims, or even fabricated false news.
What are the accusations against Moscow?
A spokesman for the prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe on Thursday confirmed it was a matter of "suspicion of intelligence agency activity.
Officials believe hackers from the group "Ghostwriter" have been trying to gain access to private email accounts of members of the Bundestag and state parliaments with so-called phishing emails.
German security authorities said they are convinced that the Russian military intelligence service GRU is behind the attacks.
The investigation by Germany's Federal Attorney General was first reported by German news magazine Der Spiegel.
The Spiegel reported that the emails were primarily targeted at politicians from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU bloc and the Social Democrats — the parties that form Germany's grand coalition government.
Previous warnings of Russian meddling
The German Foreign Ministry on Monday said it had "reliable information" that the activities in question could be attributed to actors in Russia, "specifically to the Russian military intelligence service GRU."
The ministry said it considered this to have been an "unacceptable action a danger to the security of the Federal Republic of Germany and to the democratic will-forming process."
Berlin believes the GRU also hacked the network of Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, in 2015.
The president of Germany's domestic intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang, warned in July that personal information could be captured in the attacks.
He said it could later be used for fake news and smear campaigns with Ghostwriter believed to have already taken similar action in Poland and the Baltic states.
The case comes with relations between Berlin and Moscow particularly strained over a series of espionage cases, the poisoning and jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as well as repeated cyberattacks against the West.
rc/sms (dpa, AFP)