“I want to be very clear: in our opinion, this has nothing to do with what is happening with Russia and Ukraine,” the official added.
The DarkSide hacking group, another ransomware gang suspected of being based in Russia, has been linked to the Colonial Pipeline attack. The attack and ensuing consumer panic caused gas shortages in several US states while the pipeline was temporarily shut down.
The arrests followed months of negotiations between the Biden administration and Russian officials over the ransomware attack and other cybersecurity concerns, and the FSB said on Friday its actions were linked to “the appeal of relevant US authorities.” Those efforts included a meeting between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin last year in Geneva and subsequent phone calls.
The arrests came on the same day that hackers defaced and deactivated dozens of Ukrainian government websites, with experts suspecting Russia to be behind the attack.
The government official stressed that while the arrests were “welcome,” they drew a clear line between the government’s view of the actions in Russia and the defacements of the Ukrainian website.
Those arrested will remain in Russia and will not be extradited to the United States. The administration will closely monitor the next steps there, the senior official said.
“Our expectation is that Russia will announce arrests and that Russia will take legal action within its own judicial systems,” the official said, adding that it “is our expectation that they will be brought to justice.”