Cyber ​​attack targets Ukraine as Russia moves more troops

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Warnings have spread on Ukrainian government websites that “fear and expect the worst” as a massive cyber attack hit the country, while a US official expressed fears that Russia is preparing to attack its neighbor if diplomacy fails.

The cyber attack was revealed hours after talks concluded Thursday without a breakthrough between Moscow and the Western allies. On Friday, Russia, which has mobilized 100,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian border, published pictures of more of its forces as it moved.

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

A US official said Washington was concerned that Russia was preparing for the possibility of a new military attack on a country it invaded in 2014.

“As part of its plans, Russia is laying the groundwork for the option of fabricating a pretext for the invasion, including through sabotage activities and media operations, by 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 denied such reports on the grounds that they were based on “unfounded” information, TASS news agency reported.

Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine but says it could take unspecified military action unless its demands – including a NATO pledge never to recognize Kiev – are met.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia hopes to resume security talks with the United States, but this will depend on Washington’s response to Moscow’s proposals.

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

Asked what Moscow meant by this week’s threat to take “military-technical action” if the talks fail, Lavrov said: “Measures for the deployment of military equipment, this is clear. When we make decisions with military equipment, we understand what we mean and what we are preparing for.”

Footage released by the Russian Defense Ministry and published by the RIA news agency showed armored vehicles and other military equipment being loaded onto trains in Russia’s Far East, in what Moscow described as inspection exercises to practice long-range deployments.

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

‘Expect the worst’

Ukrainian officials are investigating the massive cyber attack, which they said hit about 70 websites of government bodies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cabinet, and the Security and Defense Council.

Although they avoided direct accusations against Moscow, a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters that Russia had been behind similar strikes in the past.

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

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

Russia has not commented but has previously denied responsibility for the cyber attacks, including against Ukraine.

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

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

The message left by the cyber-attack was full of signs that reiterated the Russian state’s longstanding claims, which Kiev rejected, that Ukraine was enslaved by 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 within days with Kiev on closer cyber defense cooperation, including giving Ukraine access to the Western Military Alliance’s system for sharing information about malware.

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

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

On the streets of Ukraine, there was a growing surrender to the prospect of renewed fighting. Kiev-based Ruslan Kavatsyuk, 39, said he considered the cyber attack “positive”, as it would strengthen the resolve of the Ukrainian public.

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

(Reuters)

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