‘Fear and expect the worst’: Ukraine vulnerable to cyberattacks as Russia moves more troops

Ukraine was hit by a cyberattack, which posted warnings on government websites to “fear and expect the worst”, while Russia, which has raised 100,000 troops along its neighboring border, has put more of its force on the move. Army pictures released.

The cyber attack came hours after no-success talks between Russia and Western allies sparked fears that Moscow could launch a new military attack on the country that invaded in 2014.

Kiev said that President Volodymyr Zelensky had proposed a three-way meeting with the leaders of Russia and the United States. Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andrey Yermak, said his country’s “life and death” hang in the balance.

A US official said Washington was concerned that Russia was preparing to attack if diplomacy failed.

“As part of its plans, Russia lays the groundwork to have the option of making an excuse for an invasion through sabotage activities and information operations, accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.” doing,” said the officer. , speaking on condition of anonymity.

Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine, but says it may take unspecified military action unless its demands – including the NATO alliance’s promise to never accept Kiev – are met.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Russia expects security talks with the United States to be brief but that it will depend on Washington’s response to Moscow’s proposals.

“We will categorically not accept NATO’s presence on our borders, especially given the current course of the Ukrainian leadership,” he said.

Asked what Moscow meant by threatening to take “military-technical action” this week if negotiations fail, Lavrov said: “Measures to deploy military hardware, it’s clear. When we talk about military hardware.” When making decisions together, we understand what we mean and prepare for what we are.”

Footage from the Russian Defense Ministry released by the RIA news agency shows armored vehicles and other military hardware being loaded onto trains in Russia’s Far East in what Moscow called an inspection drill to practice long-range deployment.

“It’s potential cover for units headed to Ukraine,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst and a fellow at the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute.

“expect the worst”

Ukrainian officials were investigating the massive cyberattack, which they said hit about 70 Internet sites of government bodies, including the Foreign Ministry, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Security and Defense Council.

Although he avoided accusing Moscow directly, he made it clear that he suspected Russia. Russia did not comment but has previously denied being behind cyber attacks against Ukraine.

“Ukrainian! All your personal data was uploaded to public networks. All the data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore it,” said a message appearing on the hacked government websites, which Ukrainian, Written in Russian and Polish.

“All information about you has become public, fear and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future.”

NATO responded by announcing that it would sign a new agreement within days with Kiev on closer cooperation in cyber defense, giving Ukraine access to the Western Military Alliance’s system for sharing information on malicious software. is included.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement that NATO cyber experts were already working with Ukrainian officials to respond to the attack, both from its Brussels headquarters and on the ground in Ukraine.

On the streets of Ukraine, there was growing resignation to the prospect of renewed fighting. Kiev resident Ruslan Kavtsyuk, 39, said he viewed the cyberattack as “positive” as it would further strengthen the resolve of the Ukrainian public.

“It reminds us that we live during military times, that Russia is an enemy that will physically kill us,” he said.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry told Reuters it was too early to say who might be behind the attack, but Russia has been behind similar attacks in the past.

The Ukrainian government said it had restored most of the affected sites and that no personal data was stolen.

Ukraine’s military intelligence also accused Moscow of preparing “provocations” against Russian troops based in an isolated region of neighboring Moldova, which could be used as a pretext to invade Ukraine on a new front in the West. Is.

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, condemned the cyber attack and said the EU Political and Security Committee and cyber units would meet to help Kiev: “I cannot blame anyone because I have no evidence.” But we can imagine.”

The message left by the cyberattack was replete with references that echoed long-running Russian state accusations, rejected by Kiev, that Ukraine is in thrall to far-right nationalist groups.