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Ukraine says it has evidence of Russian involvement in cyber attack

Hacker attack left several Ukrainian government pages down. Kyiv accuses Moscow of trying to “destabilize” the situation in the country, “undermining Ukrainians’ confidence in power”.

Ukraine said on Sunday it had evidence of Russia’s involvement in the cyberattack that took several Ukrainian government websites offline on Friday.

“To date, all evidence indicates that Russia is behind the cyberattack,” Kyiv said in a statement.

For the Ukrainian government, the objective is “not only to intimidate society”, but also to “destabilize” the situation in the country, “undermining the confidence of Ukrainians in power”.

The cyberattack took place in the early hours of Thursday to Friday and left the internet pages of several ministries inaccessible for hours. The attack came amid escalating tensions between Kyiv and Moscow, which maintains significant numbers of Russian military forces along the Ukrainian border.

On the hacked pages, including those of the foreign and education ministries, a message was displayed warning Ukrainians to “expect the worst”. The websites of five other folders, the government office, the National Emergency Service and the one that registers the vaccination certificates of Ukrainians were also temporarily unavailable.

The message that appeared on the websites read, in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish: “Ukrainians! All information about you has been made public, be afraid and expect the worst. This goes for your past, present and future.”

The Ukrainian Information Protection and Communication Service said, however, that no personal data had been leaked. The Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, stressed that personal data is safe, as “the operability of websites and not of records” was affected by the attack.

Ukraine and its Western allies have repeatedly accused Russian hackers of carrying out coordinated attacks against their strategic infrastructure, which Moscow denies.

Microsoft warns of “malware”

Microsoft warned Saturday night that it had discovered the presence of dangerous malware on dozens of Ukrainian government computers that could be used to render them inoperable. Malware is software installed on devices to harm it and even render it inoperable.

A Microsoft blog post reports that the malware was first detected on Thursday, coinciding with the cyberattack.

“The malware, designed to look like ransomware [blackmail malware that asks for money in exchange for device or data recovery] but without a ransom recovery mechanism, is designed to be destructive and designed to make devices dead targets instead of getting a ransom,” Microsoft explained.

The tech giant could not say who was behind the attack, but warned that the number of affected devices could be much higher than initially assumed.

According to Reuters, Ukrainian security officer Serhiy Demedyuk said the malware was similar to those used by Russian intelligence.

EU condemns the attack

On Friday, the European Union (EU) condemned the cyberattack and said the bloc would “mobilize all resources” to help Kyiv.

“Unfortunately, we expected this to happen. Of course, we cannot point the finger at anyone as we have no evidence, but we can imagine [who is behind the attack],” said EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell. .

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the attack and announced that in the coming days the alliance will sign a cyber cooperation agreement with Kyiv.

Tensions between Moscow and the West

The US estimates that Russia has deployed around 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, raising fears of a new invasion, similar to the 2014 takeover of the Crimean Peninsula.

Moscow says it has no plans to attack the neighboring country, but rejects Washington’s calls to remove troops, invoking its right to deploy them where needed.

In addition, the Kremlin threatens to resort to military action if certain demands are not met. These include the demand that NATO give up membership of Ukraine and other former Soviet republics and reduce its military presence in Central and Eastern Europe.

Washington and its allies declined to heed those requests, but said they were open to talks about arms control, missiles and limits on military exercises.

This week, talks between Moscow and the US, followed by a meeting between representatives of Russia and NATO and a meeting at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, did not bring any immediate progress.

US suspects ‘false flag’ operation

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reported that the US government believes Moscow is planning a “false flag” operation in eastern Ukraine to justify an invasion.

According to US intelligence, Russian agents would already be in position and Moscow would have started to carry out a disinformation campaign on social media, with the aim of framing Kiev as the aggressor to justify a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We are concerned that the Russian government is preparing for an invasion of Ukraine that could result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes if diplomacy fails to fulfill its objectives,” Psaki said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the allegations, saying they were based on “baseless” information, TASS news agency reported.

Sabotage activities

On Thursday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Russia was already laying the groundwork for an invasion, planning “sabotage activities” to accuse Kiev of instigating hostilities.

He also pointed out that similar tactics were used prior to the Russian invasion of Crimea, fueling a narrative of ethnic Russians in Ukraine being targeted by US-backed ultranationalist extremists.

This time, US intelligence watched as Russian influencers on social media highlighted “Ukraine’s human rights abuses” and blamed the West for heightening tensions, the AP news agency reported.

Andras Racz, senior member of the Security and Defense program at the German Council on Foreign Relations, told DW that he considers a false flag operation a real possibility.

“Using false flag operations as a tool and as a pretext for war, in fact, would not be alien to Russian practices of waging war,” Racz said.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht warned Moscow on Friday of the consequences if it invades Ukraine, but stressed that it must first “exhaust all options to resolve this conflict”.

The view was shared by other EU foreign ministers gathered in the French city of Brest on Friday.

“The European Union is certainly ready to respond directly to any aggression, but our preference is for dialogue and negotiations,” Borrell said.

Source: DW

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