Showing posts with label Ukraine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ukraine. Show all posts

15 July 2017

Can Kurt Volker Solve the Ukraine Crisis?

Curt Mills
As Donald Trump spoke with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Hamburg late last week, his State Department announced the appointment of a tough-minded former NATO ambassador to serve as Washington’s new point man on Ukraine. His mandate is to help implement the Minsk agreements. Kurt Volker is widely respected as an accomplished diplomat, but in Ukraine he confronts his greatest challenge yet.

Volker was last seen in government in the early days of the Obama administration, a holdover at NATO installed by President George W. Bush. Volker had taken office a month before Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008. Whether such timing shaped Volker’s views on the Kremlin, or merely cemented them, is unclear. But it is largely undisputed, in both Washington and Moscow, that in choosing Volker, Rex Tillerson has opted to appoint a Russia hawk who also believes in diplomacy. This mixture may allow him to tackle successfully a dividing point between East and West that has thwarted previous efforts to resolve it. According to Paul Saunders, the executive director of the Center for the National Interest and a former George W. Bush administration official, “Kurt Volker is an experienced and tough-minded diplomat who knows how to combine principles and pragmatism into policy. He is widely respected across the political spectrum.”

14 July 2017

Yandex: Tool of Russian Disinformation and Cyber Operations in Ukraine

By: Sergey Sukhankin

The recent decision by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to ban popular Russian social networks VKontakte (VK) and Odnoklassniki, on May 15 (see EDM, June 7), provoked serious debate both inside Ukraine and abroad. Now that the initial anxiety over that ban has somewhat subsided, it is worth analyzing other, less commented-on but no less important, elements of the decree.

Aside from social networks, Poroshenko’s May 15 decree bans Russian Internet search engine giant Yandex, some information technology (IT) programs, as well as anti-virus software (including Kaspersky and Doctor Web) that have allegedly been undermining Ukrainian information and cyber security. According to Colonel Oleksandr Tkachuk, from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), approximately 300 of the largest Ukrainian companies and corporations use Russian IT programs “directly controlled by the Russian Federal Security Service [FSB]” (, April 27). Moreover, the Ukrainian side has suffered huge financial losses as a direct result of using Russian products. In his interview, the head of the information security division of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Valentin Petrov, noted that Ukraine annually spends approximately one billion hryvnas (roughly $39 million) on Russian IT and software products (, May 17).

13 July 2017

NATO: We’re supplying new cybersecurity equipment to Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — NATO’s secretary-general says the 29-member alliance is supplying hardware to the Ukrainian government to help protect its government networks from cyberattacks.

At a news conference in Kiev alongside Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday, Jens Stoltenberg told journalists that “we are in the process of providing Ukraine with new equipment to some key government institutions.”

Few other details were provided, but Stoltenberg said the gear would “help Ukraine investigate who is behind the different attacks.”

Ukraine has recently been hit by a series of powerful cyberattacks, including a June 27 attack that crippled computers across the country. Kiev blames Russia for the intrusions, charges the Kremlin denies.

Stoltenberg added that the alliance is studying the Ukraine attacks closely. “NATO is learning a lot from Ukraine,” he said.

8 July 2017

Police seize servers of Ukrainian software firm after cyber attack

Ukrainian police on Tuesday seized the servers of an accounting software firm suspected of spreading a malware virus which crippled computer systems at major companies around the world last week, a senior police official said.

The head of Ukraine’s Cyber Police, Serhiy Demedyuk, told Reuters the servers of M.E.Doc - Ukraine’s most popular accounting software - had been seized as part of an investigation into the attack.

Though they are still trying to establish who was behind last week’s attack, Ukrainian intelligence officials and security firms have said some of the initial infections were spread via a malicious update issued by M.E.Doc, charges the company’s owners deny.

The owners were not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Premium Service, which says it is an official dealer of M.E.Doc’s software, wrote a post on M.E.Doc’s Facebook page saying masked men were searching M.E.Doc’s offices and that the software firm’s servers and services were down.

Premium Service could not be reached for further comment.

Cyber Police spokeswoman Yulia Kvitko said investigative actions were continuing at M.E.Doc’s offices, adding that further comment would be made on Wednesday.

Ukraine says it foiled 2nd cyberattack after police raid

by Raphael Satter

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian authorities have avoided a second cyberattack, the country’s interior minister said Wednesday, an announcement that suggests the effort to wreak electronic havoc across the country is ongoing.

Ukraine is still trying to find its feet after scores or even hundreds of businesses and government agencies were hit by an explosion of data-scrambling software on June 27. In a Facebook post, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said there was a second stage to that attack, timed to hit its peak at 4 p.m. in Ukraine on July 4.

Avakov said the second strike — like the first one — originated from servers at the Ukrainian tax software company M.E. Doc, which sheds a little more light on Tuesday’s heavily armed raid on M.E. Doc’s office and the seizure of its servers.

The firm acknowledged Wednesday that it had been broken into and used by hackers to seed an epidemic of malware — an admission that came after a week of increasingly implausible denials.

It’s not clear what the thrust or scope of the second cyberattack in Ukraine was, but M.E. Doc is widely used across Ukraine, making it a tempting springboard for hackers. An executive at the company behind the software was quoted by Interfax-Ukraine as saying it was installed on 1 million machines across the country.

30 June 2017

Russia's Perpetual Geopolitics

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For half a millennium, Russian foreign policy has been characterized by soaring ambitions that have exceeded the country’s capabilities. Beginning with the reign of Ivan the Terrible in the sixteenth century, Russia managed to expand at an average rate of 50 square miles per day for hundreds of years, eventually covering one-sixth of the earth’s landmass. By 1900, it was the world’s fourth- or fifth-largest industrial power and the largest agricultural producer in Europe. But its per capita GDP reached only 20 percent of the United Kingdom’s and 40 percent of Germany’s. Imperial Russia’s average life span at birth was just 30 years—higher than British India’s (23) but the same as Qing China’s and far below the United Kingdom’s (52), Japan’s (51), and Germany’s (49). Russian literacy in the early twentieth century remained below 33 percent—lower than that of Great Britain in the eighteenth century. These comparisons were all well known by the Russian political establishment, because its members traveled to Europe frequently and measured their country against the world’s leaders (something that is true today, as well).

Ukraine is Ground Zero in a New Global Malware Attack


The quick infection of nearly 300,000 computers worldwide is reportedly due to two software exploits released in April by the hacking group called the Shadow Brokers. 

A sweeping set of cyber attacks hit critical services in Ukraine this morning, and have so far shown no signs of slowing down. The attacks appear to be related to a new strain of the ransomware known as Petya, which Costin Raiu, director of global research and analysis at Kaspersky Lab, says is already spreading worldwide.

In the space of hours, Ukraine’s government, top energy companies, private and state banks, main airport, and Kyiv’s metro system all reported hits on their systems. The attacker was not immediately clear—Wired, in a recent story, described Russia as using its neighbor as a “test lab for cyber war,” but Moscow denies any part in past attacks. Its own state oil giant Rosneft also reported being hit by a cyberattack today; Rosneft’s website was unresponsive at time of writing. It’s unclear if the attacks are linked. Another Russian oil firm, Bashneft, has been hit too.

29 June 2017

Ukraine Police Say This is the Source of Tuesday’s Massive Cyber Attack


The lesson from Tuesday’s massive cyber attack, beware of updates from Ukrainian accounting apps that are orders of magnitude larger than normal.
A vulnerability within an obscure piece of Ukrainian accounting software is the root cause of the massive cyber attack that swept the globe Tuesday, according to the Ukrainian law enforcement. The attack hit Ukrainian utilities and airline services, U.S. based pharmaceutical company Merck, Russian oil giant Rosneft and even forced operators at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to switch to manual radiation monitoring of the site.

The software is called Me.DOC, it’s basically an application for tax reporting and filing for companies that do business in Ukraine. At about 10:30 a.m. GMT Tuesday. MeDoc ran an automatic update on the software, a routine event. That connected every version of Me.Doc on every computer on which it had been installed (so long as it was online) to this address:
That by itself is not unusual.
As the Ukrainian police’s cyber division explained in a Facebook post on Tuesday, updates from Me.doc are usually rather small, about 300 bytes. The update on Tuesday morning ran 333 kilobytes, orders of magnitude larger.
Once host computers download the update — becoming infected — the malware creates a new file called Rundll32.exe. Next it contacts a different network. It then starts running new commands, taking advantage of a particular Windows vulnerability, the same Microsoft vulnerability targeted by Wannacry.
Defense One verified the Ukrainian police’s post with a second researcher who had direct knowledge of the attack and the malware in question.

Other cyber security researchers with Russia-based Kaspersky Labs also began pointing to Me.DOC on Tuesday as the likely point of spread.
At this point, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack and authorities have yet to make a hard determination about attribution. Actors backed by the Russian government have been targeting portions of Ukrainian infrastructure since 2015 when a massive attack by a group knocked out power to more than 225,000 people in Ukraine. Hackers pulled a similar stunt in December, a story first reported by Defense One

28 June 2017

Ukraine Hit by Massive Cyber Attack


Ukraine was hit — and hit hard — by hackers on Tuesday, with government institutions, the main airport, the state power distributor, and banks all being affected.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko posted a photo of his computer to Twitter, saying that every government computer was similarly dark.
The Ukrainian central bank blamed a virus, and said in a statement, “As a result of these cyber attacks these banks are having difficulties with client services and carrying out banking operations.”

Ukraine’s official Twitter account tweeted out a meme in response.

To which Ukraine’s parliament replied:

The attacks did not hit just Ukraine — Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk said it, too, was attacked, as was Russian oil giant Rosneft, though its core business was not impacted.

13 June 2017

Ukraine Blocks Russian Social Networks: Anti-Democratic Move or Antidote to Disinformation?

By: Sergey Sukhankin

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree, on May 15, introducing a new package of sanctions against Russian companies and individuals (, May 15). However, it was the decision to block two extremely popular Russian online social networks—Vkontakte (VK) and Odnoklassniki, embraced by more than 15 million Ukrainians—that produced the most heated debates. To justify their decision, Ukrainian officials argued that these resources are regularly employed by Russia for intelligence-gathering and propaganda purposes (, May 16).

In the immediate aftermath, the Russian Internet space (Runet) lost approximately half of its normal Ukrainian traffic and the number of Ukrainian-based Facebook users increased by 35 percent, whereas the popularity of the Opera browser “went through the roof” (, accessed June 5). Notably, Opera features free, built-in virtual private network (VPN) support, allowing the user to mask his or her physical location and thus circumvent geolocation-based restrictions.

The announced ban of Russian social networks does not automatically mean that the Ukrainian government will be actually succeed in blocking this venue for espionage and propaganda operations coming from Moscow. Two main factors must be considered: First, a full eradication of Russian social networks will require both time and money and will not ensue immediately. According to Oleksandr Fedienko, the head of the Ukrainian Internet Association, this process might take up to two years and $1 billion. The first deputy director of the presidential administration, Dmytro Shymkhiv, as well as the head of the association Telecommunication Chamber of Ukraine, Tetiana Popova, both provided a similar assessment (, May 16). Another limitation is based on the fact that, currently, Ukraine lacks “proper mechanisms” for this purpose. This was one of the most immediate challenges emphasized by Ukrianian Lieutenant General Vasyl Grytsak (, May 22).

9 June 2017

Ukraine in Conflict


This is a book in an unusual format. Like many other scholars working on Ukraine, I followed the events of Euromaidan and its aftermath daily. In my case, I wrote frequent analyses intended for an obscure blog site anticipating that the duration would be relatively short like the Orange Revolution of 2004. As events escalated, however, it became something of a habit. Occasionally I published the pieces in various places, like Open Democracy Russia or New Eastern Europe. But for the most part the articles remained limited to a very small audience. My original blog site was linked to the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS)’ Stasiuk Program for the Study of Contemporary Ukraine. My commitment was voluntary since I was not employed there full-time, but it was an arrangement of mutual satisfaction and I was supplied with an office and a computer. Earlier I had commissioned others to write articles, such as the Ukrainian publicist Mykola Riabchuk, who focused on the endemic corruption and crime during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych (2005-2010). But with the coming of Euromaidan, I was too intrigued by events to allow much space for my fellow scholars and writers.

4 June 2017

Ukraine’s Forever War

By Nolan Peterson 

KYIV, Ukraine—On May 13, an artillery shell fired from within separatist-controlled territory landed in a residential neighborhood of Avdiivka, a front-line town in eastern Ukraine.

Three women and a man were standing outside the home where the shell hit. Elena Aslanova, Olga Kurochkina, Maria Dikaya, and Oleg Borisenko.

They all died. Two children became orphans that day.

That same day, the Eurovision Song Contest finals were held in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. Tourists from around the world had flocked to the city for the event. CNN published an article hailing Ukraine as “Eastern Europe’s best-kept travel secret.”

Two weeks later, Eurovision is over and the tourists are gone. But the war is still there, still killing people, as it has for more than three years.

On this day at the end of May, there is a collage of sights and sounds on the Maidan, Kyiv’s central square and epicenter of the 2014 revolution, which overthrew the pro-Russian former president, Viktor Yanukovych.

The Trade Unions Building, which was torched during the revolution, flanks the Maidan. Now, the ruin is covered by an enormous fabric facade that bears the phrase, in English, “Freedom is Our Religion.”

31 May 2017

*** Russian Electronic Warfare in Ukraine: Between Real and Imaginable

By Sergey Sukhankin

The outbreak of war in the Donbas region (April 2014) turned Ukraine into one of the main targets of Russian information warfare, information-psychological operations, as well as cyberattacks and electronic warfare. Within the past three years, Ukraine has been subjected to no less than 7,000 cyberattacks. Ukrainian cyber expert Sergey Radkevych recently claimed that “Ukraine is in a state of cyber war with Russia” and that Russian cyber activities pose an existential threat to Ukraine’s national security (, May 5).

Furthermore, military clashes in Donbas have once again demonstrated that Russian military strategists and experts believe Electronic Warfare (EW) has become the backbone of “warfare of the future.” Western sources have claimed that from December 2015, Russia started to act much more decisively aiming to “achieve kinetic effects by delivering severe blows to Ukrainian critical infrastructure” (, March 2017). Namely, these activities included damaging/destroying command-and-control networks through jamming radio communications, hampering the work of radar systems, and muting GPS signals. The main obstacle, however, was in the lack of concrete proof and factual data pertaining to tools, gadgets and other means used by the Russians while waging EW against Ukraine. But thanks to independent investigations conducted by Ukrainian activists and cyber specialists, it is now possible to speak about Russian involvement in EW against Ukraine as an undisputed fact. And the data presented by the Ukrainians illuminates many points of ambiguity regarding Russia’s use of EW in Donbas.

28 May 2017

Will Ukraine Ever Change?

Tim Judah

President Petro Poroshenko with soldiers in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, April 2017

Denis Voronenkov, a former member of the Russian parliament, was walking out of the Premier Palace Hotel in Kiev on March 23 when he was killed in a hail of bullets. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko immediately blamed the Russian state for his murder. Voronenkov, a former supporter of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine who was accused of corruption in Russia and then fled to Kiev last year, had been a controversial figure. After his defection, he was given Ukrainian citizenship, denounced Putin and his policies, and, perhaps crucially, testified against Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s former president, who had fled to Russia when he was driven from power during the Maidan revolution of 2014. 

Russian officials denied involvement in Voronenkov’s death, but made clear they had little sympathy for a man they regarded as a traitor. He was just one more casualty of Ukraine’s revolution and its continuing war with Russia. 

21 May 2017

Ukraine in Conflict: An Analytical Chronicle

This text features the forty-one articles and blogs David Marples wrote on Ukraine’s political troubles between 2013 and 20017. More precisely, the text ranges from the Euromaidan protests and eventual uprising to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of war in Ukraine’s two eastern provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk. The topics covered include 1) Ukraine’s attempts at ‘de-communization’; 2) the imposition of the so-called Memory Laws in 2015; and 3) whether the socio-political road Kiev has taken is likely to yield success or failure.

28 April 2017

Americans Are Not Ready to Go to War for Ukraine

Christopher A. Preble

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson committed what amounts to an unconscionable sin in the eyes of many foreign policy watchers when he wondered aloud two weeks ago during a meeting in Lucca, Italy, "Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?"

The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum responded with an emphatic, “Yes, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Taxpayers Should Care,” but conceded, with an eye to Tillerson’s corporate roots:

There is no calculation, no balance sheet that can prove any of this. There is nothing that would appeal to a CEO or his shareholders. Whatever we have “invested” in Ukraine...will not show an immediate profit. To see the value of a secure, pro-Western Ukraine, you have to see the value of an alliance going back 70 years.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, stressed that abandoning Ukraine to Vladimir Putin’s tender mercies could spur more states to pursue nuclear weapons. Ukraine was encouraged, under the Budapest Memorandum of December 1994, to relinquish its nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in exchange for security assurances from both Russia and the United States.

20 April 2017

Russian Operations in Ukraine

By MWI Staff

What is Russia really up to in Ukraine?

That was the question addressed during a recent event at West Point by Dr. Phillip Karber, president of the Potomac Foundation. Dr. Karber spoke to cadets and faculty about current Russian operations, the Kremlin’s ultimate objectives, and the implications for the United States of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. His observations are based on twenty-five trips to the region, including 177 days spent with Ukrainian forces on the front lines.

Karber avoids the term “hybrid warfare” to describe Russian actions, he says, because it connotes only a narrow part of a much broader spectrum of what Russia itself calls “New Generation Warfare.” Despite Russia’s label, though, the components of the concept are not entirely new. In fact, Karber argues that the current war has striking parallels with past conflicts, most notably the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, which he studied shortly after that war’s conclusion as part of a US “lessons learned” team let by Brig. Gen. Donn Starry.

He also identifies several factors that combined to create the conditions for Russia to develop the strategy it is currently implementing. First, Karber points to weaknesses caused by the post-Cold War demobilization and loss of forces associated with the Soviet Union’s breakup; in some cases, three Soviet divisions were condensed into a single modern brigade, a force structure change that ultimately required Russian military planners to dramatically alter the way Russia would employ its forces. Second, Karber cites the 1990s Chechen wars, in which for the first time, conscripts were deliberately held back from direct action. This professionalized “tip of the spear” dynamic is playing out similarly today in Ukraine, where conscripts are often left in garrison while the remainder of combat units rotate into Ukraine.

17 April 2017

Ukraine to launch big blockchain deal with tech firm Bitfury

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) — Ukraine has partnered with global technology company the Bitfury Group to put a sweeping range of government data on a blockchain platform, the firm’s CEO told Reuters, in a project he described as probably the largest of its kind anywhere.

Bitfury, a blockchain company with offices in the United States and overseas, will provide the services to Ukraine, CEO Valery Vavilov said in an interview Wednesday.

Ukraine’s blockchain initiative underscores a growing trend among governments that have adopted the technology to increase efficiencies and improve transparency.

Blockchain is a ledger of transactions that first emerged as the software underpinning digital currency bitcoin. It has become a key global technology in both the public and private sector given its ability to permanently record and keep track of assets or transactions across all industries.

Ukraine and Bitfury are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding on Thursday, Vavilov said.

24 March 2017

Get Ready, Russia: Ukraine Wants to Build Its Very Own MiG-29 (Sort of)

Dave Majumdar

Ukraine is developing a new indigenous lightweight fighter aircraft fighter according to a new report. However, the project has existed in some form for more than ten years.

According to a report in Jane’s, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that Kiev would develop its own twin-engine, multirole fighter during a visit to the Ivchenko-Progress engine design bureau. The aircraft—which currently exists as sketch drawing—is called the Legkiy Boiviy Litak or Lightweight Combat Aircraft. It apparently bears more than a passing resemblance to the MiG-29.

Though the prospective Ukrainian fighter might look like a MiG-29, it would use indigenous engines and avionics. The jet would be powered by a pair of AI-322F derivative engines, but the fighter’s avionics would be of both Western and Ukrainian origin. "We will soon be able to create our own aircraft engine for the fighter," Poroshenko said—according to Jane’s.

Reports of an indigenous Ukrainian fighter date back to before 2005, indeed former Antonov designer general Dmitry Kiva made the claim in 2014 that Ukraine can independently develop gunships and fighter aircraft. However, in reality, it is highly dubious if Kiev has the industrial base or money to develop its own jet independently. Particularly, it is highly unlikely—given the nature of the former Soviet industrial base—that Ukraine would have the wherewithal to independently develop avionics for the new jet, particularly the radar.

Geolocated: Russian Military Convoys Near Ukrainian Border

This week, the commander of Russia’s Southern Military District announced snap checks for a number of the military units in the south of Russia. Some of these military units were in the Krasnodar Krai, Rostov Oblast, Astrakhan Oblast, and at Russian bases in Armenia and Abkhazia, among other locations.

According to Russian news service TASS, about 6,000 soldiers were involved in the combat readiness check. Earlier in March, another readiness check was instituted for military units in occupied Crimea and the North Caucasus, which are also in the Southern Military District.

We can observe much of the equipment involved in these snap checks through videos shared by ordinary Russians who noticed military convoys driving past them. A number of these videos were shot in the Rostov Oblast, bordering Ukraine. These military convoys were a common sight in the summer of 2014 throughout the Rostov Oblast, where they were transported to large bases that served as the staging ground for Russia’s intervention in the war in the Donbas.