Cyberattack targets Ukraine as Russia moves more troops

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Ukraine’s government websites were sprayed with a ‘be afraid and expect the worst’ warning as a massive cyberattack hit the country, amid fears by a US official that Russia is preparing to attack its neighbor if diplomacy failed.

The cyberattack came hours after talks ended Thursday with no breakthrough between Moscow and its Western allies. On Friday, Russia, which has massed 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, released photos of others of its forces on the move.

Kiev said President Volodymyr Zelensky had proposed a three-way meeting with the leaders of Russia and the United States. Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said his country’s “life and death” were at stake.

A US official said Washington fears Russia is preparing for the possibility of another military attack on a country it invaded in 2014.

“As part of its plans, Russia is preparing the ground for the possibility of fabricating a pretext for the invasion, including through sabotage activities and information operations, accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine,” the official said. , speaking on condition of anonymity.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later dismissed the reports as based on “unsubstantiated” information, TASS news agency reported.

Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine, but says it may take unspecified military action unless its demands – including a promise from the NATO alliance never to admit Kiev – are satisfied.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia hoped security talks with the United States would resume, but that would depend on Washington’s response to Moscow’s proposals.

“We will categorically not accept the appearance of NATO right on our borders, especially given the current development of the Ukrainian leadership,” he said.

Asked what Moscow meant by threatening this week to take “military-technical measures” if the talks fail, Lavrov replied: “Measures to deploy military equipment, that’s obvious. When we make decisions with military equipment, we understand what we mean and what we are. get ready for.”

Russian Defense Ministry footage released by the RIA news agency showed armored vehicles and other military equipment being loaded onto trains in the Russian Far East, in what Moscow called an inspection exercise to train for long-range deployments.

“This is probably a cover for units being moved to Ukraine,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst and researcher at the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute.

‘Expect the worst’ Ukrainian officials were investigating the massive cyberattack, which they say hit about 70 websites of government bodies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cabinet of Ministers and Security Council and defense.

Although they avoided blaming Moscow directly, Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters that Russia had been behind similar strikes in the past.

A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said it was not yet clear who was responsible for the cyberattack, but Biden had been briefed.

“We are in contact with the Ukrainians and have offered our support,” the spokesman said.

Russia has not commented but has previously denied being behind cyberattacks, including against Ukraine.

“Ukrainian! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore it,” reads a message visible on hacked government websites, written in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish.

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

The message left by the cyberattack was peppered with references that echoed long-standing Russian state claims, denied by Kyiv, that Ukraine is in the grip of far-right nationalist groups.

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

NATO responded by announcing that it would sign a new agreement with Kiev in a few days on closer cooperation in cyber defense, including giving Ukraine access to the system of the Western military alliance for sharing malware information.

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

European Union top diplomat Josep Borrell condemned the cyberattack and said the EU’s political and security committee and cyber units would meet to see how to help Kyiv: “I can’t blame anyone because I have no proof, but we can imagine.”

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

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

(Reuters)

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