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Ukrainian gov’t hit with ‘massive’ cyberattack

Volodymyr Zelensky 2019 (The Presidential Administration of Ukraine/Released)
February 23, 2022

Ukrainian government websites were targeted in a “massive” cyberattack on Wednesday as President Joe Biden’s administration warned that a full-scale Russian invasion is imminent.

The head of Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, warned in a post on Telegram on Wednesday that multiple government websites were hit in the “massive” cyberattack.  

“At about 4 pm, another mass DDoS attack on our state began. We have relevant data from a number of banks, and there are also problems with access to the websites of the Verkhovna Rada (already in operation), the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is due to switching traffic to another provider to minimize the damage from the attack,” Fedorov wrote, according to a translation of the post.

“Portal and mobile application Action successfully overcome the current attack and continue to work stably,” he added.

It is unclear who is responsible for the hack, but it comes as U.S. officials warn Russia will likely conduct a full-scale invasion before the end of the week. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby stopped short of attributing the cyberattack to Russia during a press briefing on Wednesday, but said disrupting cyberspace is “a piece of the Russian playbook.”

“The President of Ukraine has been warned Russia will highly likely begin an invasion within 48 hours based on U.S. intelligence,” a U.S. official familiar with the situation told Newsweek.

“Additionally, reporting from aircraft observers indicates Russia violated Ukrainian airspace earlier today, flying possible reconnaissance aircraft for a short period over Ukraine,” the official added.

A source close to Ukrainian government officials confirmed to Newsweek that the warning was received, noting that it is the third time in February that Kyiv has been told to brace for a Russian invasion.

“It’s possible for sure,” the source said. “Putin can’t keep so many troops in the field much longer.”

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a document signifying Russia’s recognition of the sovereignty of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR or DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR or LPR), two areas in eastern Ukraine that have been held by Russian-backed separatists. Shortly after recognizing the DNR and LNR as sovereign, and therefore separate from Ukraine, Putin ordered Russian troops already gathered on Ukraine’s border to cross over under the pretense of protecting the separatist areas from a Ukrainian attack.

Also this week, former President Donald Trump predicted that China will move to take Taiwan after watching President Joe Biden’s response in the face of Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine. 

“China’s going to be next,” he said, adding, “Oh, absolutely. Not with me, they wouldn’t have.”