News / Europe

    Ukraine Says Communications Hit, MPs Phones Blocked

    Reuters
    Ukraine's telecommunications system has come under attack, with equipment installed in Russian-controlled Crimea used to interfere with the mobile phones of members of parliament, the head of Ukraine's SBU security service said on Tuesday.

    Some Internet and telephone services were severed after Russian forces seized control of airfields and key installations in Ukraine's Crimea region on Friday, but now lawmakers were being targeted, Valentyn Nalivaichenko told a news briefing.

    “I confirm that an ... attack is under way on mobile phones of members of Ukrainian parliament for the second day in row,” the security chief said at a news briefing.

    “At the entrance to [telecoms firm] Ukrtelecom in Crimea, illegally and in violation of all commercial contracts, was installed equipment that blocks my phone as well as the phones of other deputies, regardless of their political affiliation,” he said.

    Ukrtelecom already has said armed men raided its facilities in Crimea on Friday and tampered with fiber optic cables, causing outages of local telephone and Internet systems on the continent.

    • Ukrainian servicemen look on as an armed man, believed to be a Russian soldier, stands guard inside a Ukrainian military base in the Crimean town of Yevpatoria, March 5, 2014.
    • Uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, march outside a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, March 5, 2014.
    • Ukrainian Navy soldiers raise their flag on top of the Ukrainian navy corvette Ternopil at the Crimean port of Sevastopol, March 5, 2014.
    • Russian soldiers fire warning shots at the Belbek air base, outside Sevastopol, Ukraine, March 4, 2014.
    • A Russian soldier marches as he and comrades block the Ukrainian infantry base in Perevalne, Ukraine, March 4, 2014.
    • Russian military armored personnel carriers drive from Sevastopol to Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, March 4, 2014.
    • Ukrainian officers march at the Belbek air base, outside Sevastopol, Ukraine, March 4, 2014.
    • Russian servicemen stand on duty near a map of the Crimea region near the city of Kerch, March 4, 2014.
    • U.S.Secretary of State John Kerry lays roses atop the Shrine of the Fallen in Kyiv, March 4, 2014.
    • A woman passes by Ukrainian recruits receiving military instructions in Kyiv's Independence Square, March 4, 2014.
    • Ukrainian recruits receive instructions from a commander in a recruitment self defense quarter at Kyiv's Independence Square, March 4, 2014.

    The Ukrainian security chief did not say whether the new issues were linked to the earlier raid or a separate tampering incident. Ukrtelecom said it was working on a response to questions from Reuters about Nalivaichenko's remarks.

    Russia's domestic intelligence service, the FSB, declined to comment when asked if Moscow was behind the communications disruptions in Ukraine.

    The main Ukrainian government website www.kmu.gov.ua was offline for about 72 hours after Russian forces seized control of the peninsula, but went back up early on Monday, said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer for the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit.

    Bumgarner, whose firm advises companies and government agencies on how to fend off cyber attacks, said, he is not sure the site went down as a result of a cyber attack. Still, he said he believes Moscow has the ability to cause major disruptions using cyber operations.

    “I know they have the ability to do at least as much damage as they did in Estonia and Georgia,” he said.

    Estonia suffered a 10-day attack on its Internet services in 2007, which caused major disruptions to its financial system, during a spat with Moscow over a Soviet-era war memorial, and Georgia was hit by mass cyber attacks during a brief 2008 war with Russia over its pro-Moscow South Ossetia region.

    Russian authorities denied direct involvement in both attacks, saying they had no influence over the actions of self-styled patriotic hackers.

    Is Russia holding back?

    Much of Ukraine's telecommunications infrastructure was built when it was part of the Soviet Union, along with what is now the Russian Federation, and is particularly vulnerable to penetration by Moscow.

    “The Russians have the place completely wired,” said Jim Lewis, a former U.S. foreign service officer and now senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

    “They are right next door and most traffic has to go through Russia. That they haven't done more probably reflects their confidence that they're going to come out ahead and there's nothing anyone can do about it,” Lewis said.

    Cyber warfare experts say that while Russia certainly has the ability to conduct such campaigns against Ukraine, it has yet to need to use those capabilities.

    “This would show the Russians acting with more discretion and targeting than recently,” said John Bassett, former head of the London and Washington stations of GCHQ, Britain's top secret government communications center.

    “This wouldn't expose any great depth of their technological capability and they would be keeping the harder stuff back,” said Bassett, now associate at Oxford University's Cyber Security Center.

    Marty Martin, a former senior operations officer with the CIA, said Moscow likely would only take action to damage Ukraine's Internet and internal communications systems if hostilities broke out.

    “A lot of times you don't want to shut things down. If you do that, then you don't get your flow of intelligence. You are probably better off monitoring it,” Martin said.

    Experts believe Russia was behind the hacking of a confidential phone conversation between senior U.S. State Department official Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, which was leaked over YouTube last month.

    “Russia's strategy is control the narrative, discredit opponents, and coerce,” said Lewis.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora