A United States grand jury charged 12 Russian “intelligence officers” with breaching the Democratic party’s computer networks in an election hacking case, Reuters reported. The US Justice Department said Russian officials staged releases of emails from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

This is the latest development in an ongoing investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. The indictment is the first that directly charges Moscow.

United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in Helsinki, Finland on July 16.

The charges were filed by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election as well as Russian collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign team.

The United States Justice Department said officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, “in their official capacities engaged in a sustained effort to hack into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton”.

Russia’s foreign ministry claimed there was no evidence to indicate that the 12 had links to the Russian military intelligence or that they had hacked into the Democratic Party’s network.

The investigation

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s alleged role in the elections, pushed for the indictments of several former Trump campaign aides, including former campaign chairperson Paul Manafort and former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

In February, 13 Russians and three Russian companies were charged with interfering with the election.