Russian Hacker, Wanted by F.B.I., Is Arrested in Prague, Czechs Say

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Russian Hacker, Wanted by F.B.I., Is Arrested in Prague, Czechs Say

By RICK LYMAN and HANA de GOEIJOCT. 19, 2016

PRAGUE — A man identified as a Russian hacker suspected of pursuing targets in the United States has been arrested in the Czech Republic, the police announced Tuesday evening.

The suspect was captured in a raid at a hotel in central Prague on Oct. 5, about 12 hours after the authorities heard that he was in the country, where he drove around in a luxury car with his girlfriend, according to the police. The man did not resist arrest, but he had medical problems and was briefly hospitalized, the police said in a statement.

David Schön, a police spokesman, said on Wednesday that the arrest of the man, whose name has not been released, was not announced immediately “for tactical reasons.”

The police statement said that “the man was a Russian citizen suspected of hacking attacks on targets in the United States,” and that the raid was conducted in collaboration with the F.B.I. after Interpol issued an arrest warrant for him.

The F.B.I. said in a statement that the arrest was an example of the collaboration needed “to successfully defeat cyber adversaries,” but declined to provide any further details.

The arrest occurred two days before the Obama administration formally accused the Russian government of stealing and disclosing emails from the Democratic National Committee and other institutions and prominent individuals.

But law enforcement officials in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment while the investigation was underway, said on Wednesday that the suspect appeared to be connected with a cyberattack on a West Coast company in 2012 — and did not appear to be related to the hacking of the Democrats’ emails or to organizations like DCLeaks or WikiLeaks.

A judge in Prague has ordered the man to remain in custody, and a court will examine whether to extradite him to the United States.

The Russian Embassy in Prague called for the man to be released.

“We insist that the detained Russian citizen should be transferred to Russia,” the state-run Russian news agency Tass quoted Aleksei Kolmakov, the embassy’s spokesman, as saying.

Mr. Kolmakov said that the embassy had been notified about the detention, but that the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, had told the news website RBK that it did not have details about the man’s identity.

Jakub Janda, who studies the Russian government and is a deputy director of the European Values Think-Tank in Prague, said that the arrest served as confirmation that “the Czech Republic is so far considered a safe base for Russian intelligence and influence activities focused on Western targets.”

He added, “Prague is unofficially considered to be a springboard for some Kremlin activities inside Europe, also using huge Russian diplomatic presence of approximately 140 staff.”

Mr. Janda also said that the arrest showed that “Western governments are waking up and finally considering hostile Russian intelligence and disinformation operations to be an open and urgent threat, even at the level of the U.S. administration.”

He added, “Open arrests of hostile individuals such as this one can serve as a deterrent element.”

The United States director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., said in a statement on Oct. 7 that high-level Russian officials were trying to interfere with American elections.

“The recent disclosures of alleged hacked emails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,” Mr. Clapper said. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

The antisecrecy organizations DCLeaks and WikiLeaks have been involved with the disclosures of illegally obtained emails from the hacked accounts of prominent figures including Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state, and John D. Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Guccifer 2.0 is the assumed name of a Romanian “lone hacker” responsible for copying thousands of emails and other files from the Democratic committee, but experts are not certain if the hacker is a person or a front created by Russian intelligence officials.

It appears that the man arrested in Prague is not related to the hackers Mr. Clapper described.

Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Eric Lichtblau contributed reporting from Washington, and Neil MacFarquhar and Ivan Nechepurenko from Moscow.

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