British authorities allege that a GRU operation conducted "malign activity" when it tried to collect information about the investigation into the 2014 downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine by targeting Malaysian government institutions, including the Attorney General's office and Malaysian police.
The British ambassador to the Netherlands said that the men caught with spy gear outside The Hague-based OPCW, for example, were from the very same GRU section (Unit 26165) accused by American investigators of having broken into the Democratic National Committee's email and sowing havoc during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
However, the Russian foreign ministry dismissed the allegations as "big fantasies" and part of the West's "spy mania".
The seven officials are charged with hacking, stealing private and sensitive information and publishing it as retaliation.
According to the Dutch Ministry of Defence on Thursday, the four Russians arrived at Schiphol Airport on April 13 while traveling on diplomatic passports, hired a vehicle, and drove to a Marriott hotel in the Hague.
The men were not successful in breaching OPCW systems, the minister said.
Dutch authorities searched a rental auto belonging to the men and found laptops with incriminating web history, maps, phones, cash, and an antenna that they determined had been pointed at the OPCW.
It was around this time investigations into the Skripals' novichok poisoning were taking place.
"They were clearly not here on holiday", said Eichelsheim.
Dutch officials said it was not clear if the cyber operation was linked to that.
Global Affairs Canada said these incidents "underscore the Russian government's disregard for the rules-based worldwide order, international law and established norms".
He said the agents had planned to target an OPCW in laboratory in Switzerland too.
A statement from Global Affairs Canada said the latest incidents are part of a malicious pattern of behaviour that includes Russia's 2016 attack on the Canadian headquarters of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
British government sources said they had has assessed with "high confidence" that the GRU was "almost certainly" behind the Democratic Party hack that some Hillary Clinton supporters claimed helped tip the U.S. election in Donald Trump's favour, as well as the WADA attack which resulted in the release of the medical files of global sports stars including tennis's Serena and Venus Williams and British cyclist Bradley Wiggins.
All the attacks were already linked to Russian Federation but this is the first time Britain has linked them to the GRU, Moscow's primary military intelligence outfit.
"How we respond is a political decision by the nations involved", Mattis said after a meeting with his North Atlantic Treaty Organisation counterparts, although he said there would not necessarily be a "tit-for-tat" response by the West. "We will also be discussing how we need - working with our friends and allies - to counter this pattern of cyber attacks, which is the new type of attack that the whole world is having to deal with".
Today, the United Kingdom and its allies can expose a campaign by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, of indiscriminate and reckless cyber attacks targeting political institutions, businesses, media and sport.
Britain accused the GRU of hacking email accounts at a "small UK-based TV station", stealing their contents.
Moscow has denied responsibility in the Skripal attack and said the two accused were merely tourists visiting Britain.
"I imagine Mr Putin is shouting at one or two people right now", a cheerful British official told me.
"This pattern of behaviour demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to global law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences", he said.