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Ukraine Blames Presidential Website Cyberattack on Russia

The move might have come in retaliation for Kyiv’s banning of popular Russian social networks and internet businesses. 

17 May 2017

The tug-of-war between Ukraine and Russia has moved even further online. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s (pictured) website was the target of cyberattacks yesterday, allegedly from Russia, the presidential administration said, according to the BBC.

 

Despite the lack of evidence so far to back such claims, Russia was the usual suspect, even more so in light of recent events. Through presidential decree, Ukraine had announced earlier on Tuesday that it was banning several Russian sites, including social networks VK.com and Odnoklassniki, search engine Yandex, and the mail.ru email service.

 

The ban’s justification was to protect against companies "whose activities threaten the information and cybersecurity of Ukraine," read a statement from the Ukrainian Security and Defense Council, cited by Reuters.

 

The websites will be added to a list of more than 400 Russian companies banned in Ukraine since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

 

Russia did not sit idly by, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dubbing the move "shortsighted," while Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova called it a "manifestation of politically motivated censorship," in a comment for Russian newspaper Kommersant, Reuters writes.


It is unclear, however, when the ban will start. Mykhailo Chaplyga, a representative of the Ukrainian parliament’s commissioner for human rights, told the news agency UNIAN that “blocking access to sites without a court decision is not allowed” under Ukrainian law, the Guardian reports. Many also pointed out that the websites would still be accessible via a VPN client, already popular in the region as a way to circumvent official restrictions.

 

Some press freedom organizations were up in arms about the decision, RFE/RL reported, citing a tweet by Reporters Without Borders that read: "Nothing can justify such a blanket ban! Blatant violation of freedom of expression." 

 

 

  • VKontakte, as VK.com is known, is estimated to have between 12 and 14 million users in Ukraine, while Odnoklassniki has around seven or eight million users, according to Ukraine's Plus One DA digital agency, cited by the BBC. In comparison, around 7 million Ukrainians are on Facebook.

 

  • Last weekend, Russia was on the receiving end of a cyberatttack, The New York Times reports. Although as many as 150 countries were also targeted by a malicious software known as WannaCry, Russia was hit the hardest. 

 

  • Other companies added to the blacklist were the Aeroflot and Transaero airlines, the Rossiya and Gazprombank banks, the cybersecurity giant Kaspersky Labs, and the defense companies Russian Helicopters and Rosoboroneksport, The Moscow Times writes.

 

  • Ukraine hosted this year’s Eurovision song contest, which took place without Russia’s representative Julia Samoilova, who was banned from taking part in the contest on the grounds that she had violated Ukrainian border rules when she performed in Russian-occupied Crimea in 2015. 

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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