Share story

ROME — Russia denied reports in the Italian media Wednesday that Russian spy agencies distributed USB thumb drives doctored to let them eavesdrop on delegations attending last month’s Group of 20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“This is undoubtedly nothing but an attempt to shift the focus from issues that truly exist in relations between European capitals and Washington to unsubstantiated, nonexistent issues,” said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to RIA Novosti, the state news agency.

European leaders have been outraged by reports that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on allies in Europe, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Wednesday, the focus shifted to Russia. According to Corriere della Sera, a leading Italian newspaper, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, had a debriefing with security officials after returning from St. Petersburg.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

The security team conducted an examination of the thumb drives, which the Russians distributed as gifts to the 300 foreign delegates, who also received stuffed teddy bears, cups, diaries and cables to connect smartphones with computers, the Italian paper reported. Later, the European Council’s security office sent a report to G-20 participants, warning that some of the USB drives and the cables appeared to have been tampered with, Corriere della Sera said. German intelligence services conducted tests and concluded the sabotaged electronic equipment could be used to intercept data from computers and mobile phones.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.