Ukraine was hit by a cyberattack splashing a warning across government websites to “be afraid and expect the worst”, while Russia, which has massed 100,000 troops on its neighbor’s frontier, released pictures of more of its forces on the move.
Reuters reported that the cyber attack unfolded hours after talks wrapped up with no breakthrough between Russia and Western allies, which fear Moscow could launch a new military assault on a country it invaded in 2014. “The drumbeat of war is sounding loud,” Michael Carpenter, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said at the close of talks on Thursday.
Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine but says it could take unspecified military action unless its demands are met, including a promise by the NATO alliance never to admit Kyiv. CBS News stated: “As a result of a massive cyberattack, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other government agencies are temporarily down,” the Foreign Ministry said overnight.
Earlier, the ministry’s website displayed a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish saying: “Ukrainians! All your personal data… have been deleted and are impossible to restore. All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect the worst.”
Ukrainian and U.S. officials told CBS News on Thursday that a potential military assault against Ukraine would not necessarily begin with Russian tanks rolling across the frozen border in the coming weeks. Alternate methods of attack, including airstrikes as well as a staged provocation that could originate from neighboring Belarus or another Russia-friendly territory in the region, were among the possibilities expected — along with a preceding cyberattack.
Putin’s preference for hybrid warfare is also particularly weighing on the minds of Ukrainian officials. “If Russia decides on a full invasion, then we know that we should expect increased cyberattacks before that,” Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova told CBS News on Thursday.