NATO announces deeper 'cyber cooperation' with Ukraine after country's government websites were taken offline by hackers in suspected Russian attack

  • NATO says it will sign an agreement on enhanced cyber cooperation after attack
  • Cyber attack temporarily brought down foreign ministry and cabinet websites 
  • Russian military is being closely watched due to a troop buildup near Ukraine
  • Kyiv and the West fears that Moscow may be planning to invade its neighbour

NATO has announced it plans to deepen cyber cooperation with Ukraine after a sweeping attack knocked out key government websites in Kyiv.

Without naming Moscow, aide to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, Andriy Yermak, said Western and Ukrainian intelligence believed the cyberattacks were part of a plot for the 'destabilisation of the situation in Ukraine'.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: 'In the coming days, NATO and Ukraine will sign an agreement on enhanced cyber cooperation, including Ukrainian access to NATO's malware information sharing platform.' 

It comes amid heightened tensions between the rival nations, as Russia held snap combat readiness inspections of its troops today, with up to 100,000 stationed on the border with Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the US has intelligence that Russia is planning a 'false-flag' operation on its own forces in eastern Ukraine to create a pretext for invasion. 

NATO has risked angering Vladimir Putin after it announces plans to deepen cyber cooperation with Ukraine

NATO has risked angering Vladimir Putin after it announces plans to deepen cyber cooperation with Ukraine

The inspections came as several key Ukrainian government websites were taken offline Friday, authorities said, in a sweeping cyber attack. Pictured: A laptop displays a warning message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, that appeared on the official website of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry after a massive cyberattack, in this illustration taken January 14, 2022

The inspections came as several key Ukrainian government websites were taken offline Friday, authorities said, in a sweeping cyber attack. Pictured: A laptop displays a warning message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, that appeared on the official website of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry after a massive cyberattack, in this illustration taken January 14, 2022

The EU was also mobilising to aid its close ally after the attacks temporarily brought down sites, including those of the foreign ministry and cabinet.

Kyiv said the damage was limited and held back on apportioning blame but the ex-Soviet country has accused Russians with links to Moscow for previous hits on websites and key infrastructure.

The foreign ministry website earlier Friday was displaying a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish languages.

'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.'

'This is for your past, present and future,' it said, mentioning two ultra-nationalist organisations in Ukraine.

Special training of snipers of the combined arms army of the Western Military District at training grounds in the Voronezh

Special training of snipers of the combined arms army of the Western Military District at training grounds in the Voronezh

Meanwhile, the US has intelligence that Russia is planning a 'false-flag' operation on its own forces in eastern Ukraine to create a pretext for invasion. 

Ukraine's foreign ministry described today's cyberattack that brought down its site and other government portals as 'massive'.

The targeted sites, including the emergencies ministry, education ministry and cabinet, displayed a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish warning Ukrainians that their personal data had been compromised.

'All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect the worst,' the message read.

Within hours of the breach early Friday the SBU security services said access to most hit sites had been restored and that the fallout was minimal.

'The content of sites has not been changed and according to preliminary information no personal data was leaked,' the SBU security service said in a statement. 

Pictured: A tank takes part in a military drill in Russia. Russian military manoeuvres are being closely scrutinised due to a troop buildup near Ukraine that has prompted fears in Kyiv and the West that Moscow may be planning to invade. Russia denies any such plan

Pictured: A tank takes part in a military drill in Russia. Russian military manoeuvres are being closely scrutinised due to a troop buildup near Ukraine that has prompted fears in Kyiv and the West that Moscow may be planning to invade. Russia denies any such plan

Kyiv did not immediately blame any individual or entities and the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it was too early 'to point the finger at anybody. We don't have proof'.

But he added: 'You can imagine who did this.' 

Officials on Friday also said they believed Russia was mounting a social media disinformation campaign to portray Ukraine as the aggressor. 

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia had 'run out of patience' with the West as Moscow demanded assurances that NATO would not expand closer to its territory.

Meanwhile the US says it has evidence that operatives trained in urban warfare and sabotage will carry out false flag attacks on Russian proxy forces, officials told journalists on Friday, possibly weeks before an invasion.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki warned of human rights violations and war crimes if diplomacy failed and the Russian government went ahead with its plans. 

Pictured: A fighter jet is seen taking off in footage released by Russia's military ministry of defence. Amid concern over Russia's troop movements, Russia says it is up to Moscow alone where it moves its forces around on its territory and that they pose no external threat

Pictured: A fighter jet is seen taking off in footage released by Russia's military ministry of defence. Amid concern over Russia's troop movements, Russia says it is up to Moscow alone where it moves its forces around on its territory and that they pose no external threat

Defence Ministry footage released by RIA news agency showed numerous armoured vehicles and other military hardware being loaded onto trains in the Eastern Military District

Defence Ministry footage released by RIA news agency showed numerous armoured vehicles and other military hardware being loaded onto trains in the Eastern Military District

No breakthrough was reached at meetings between Russia and Western states this week, which fear Moscow could launch a new attack on a country it invaded in 2014.  

The events came the day after Poland warned Europe faces its greatest threat of war in the last 30 years, and as Russia threatened 'military means' if its demands over Ukraine were not met by the West.

'The drumbeat of war is sounding loud,' added senior U.S. diplomat Michael Carpenter, last night as talks to find a diplomatic solution to the worsening situation between Russia and Ukraine teetered on the brink of collapse.

Defence Ministry footage released by RIA news agency showed numerous armoured vehicles and other military hardware being loaded onto trains in the Eastern Military District.

'The exercises will make it possible to assess the readiness of the troops... to carry out missions as required after regrouping at far distances across Russian territory,' the ministry was quoted as saying.

Open-source intelligence analysts have for weeks been studying social media footage of Russian military hardware being transported, including by train.

Russia says it is up to Moscow alone where it moves its forces around on its territory and that they pose no external threat.

Rob Lee, a military analyst and a fellow at the U.S.-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the drills would test the ability of units to complete missions after conducting long-distance travel.

'This is likely cover for the units being moved towards Ukraine,' he tweeted.

Open-source intelligence analysts have for weeks been studying social media footage of Russian military hardware being transported, including by train. Pictured: A man is shown operating a Russian armoured vehicle

Open-source intelligence analysts have for weeks been studying social media footage of Russian military hardware being transported, including by train. Pictured: A man is shown operating a Russian armoured vehicle

Pictured: Ukrainian troops take part in military drills as tensions across the country's border with Russia continue to mount

Pictured: Ukrainian troops take part in military drills as tensions across the country's border with Russia continue to mount

Pictured: A Russian plane is shown in video released by the Russian military on Friday

Pictured: A Russian plane is shown in video released by the Russian military on Friday

In December, Russia unveiled proposals to contain the United States and NATO in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, saying that the US-led alliance should not admit Ukraine or Georgia as new members.

This week's negotiations in Geneva and a related NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels were held amid a significant Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that the West fears might be a prelude to an invasion.

Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, has denied having plans to attack its neighbor but warned the West that NATO's expansion to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations is a 'red line' that mustn't be crossed.

Washington and its allies firmly rejected Moscow's demand for security guarantees precluding NATO's expansion, but Russia and the West agreed to leave the door open to possible further talks on arms control and confidence-building measures intended to reduce the potential for hostilities. 

Pictured: Russian troops take part in parachute drills in footage released on Friday

Pictured: Russian troops take part in parachute drills in footage released on Friday

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned of his 'grave concerns' of a Russian invasion of Ukraine with an appalling cost in human lives.

He cautioned Vladimir Putin not to close the door on talks to diffuse the crisis, joining with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg to demand a Russia de-escalation.

His intervention came as Moscow signalled a 'dead end' in talks with the West, amid further intense war games by Kremlin's forces.

On Thursday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow saw no reason to hold a new round of security talks with the West following a lack of progress.

Ryabkov also said he did not rule out the possibility that Moscow could deploy forces to allies Venezuela or Cuba if diplomacy failed.  

The West has accused Russia of deploying tanks, artillery and about 100,000 soldiers on Ukraine's war-torn eastern border in recent weeks, in what NATO says is preparation for an invasion. Russia has denied it plans to invade

The West has accused Russia of deploying tanks, artillery and about 100,000 soldiers on Ukraine's war-torn eastern border in recent weeks, in what NATO says is preparation for an invasion. Russia has denied it plans to invade

But in the same interview with prominent TV presenter Tina Kandelaki on RTVI he hit out at Britain and the US, claiming London was in the vanguard of the West's perceived uncompromising stance.

She had claimed that British officials 'simply hate' Russia and 'put in a lot of effort to ensure our relations with the US and with the rest of the world are in a state of constant escalation'.

He said: 'I am certain, I don't even need to read it - the Anglo-Saxon group, North America, Great Britain were the toughest in their attacks on us and on politics.

'This is fact without a doubt.

'So there is no way we can speak about London's constructive role.' 

In 2020, the United States in October charged six Russians with carrying out cyber attacks on Ukraine's power grid, the 2017 French elections and the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The justice department at the time said the six were current or former members of the GRU - Russian military intelligence and were also accused of staging a malware attack called 'NotPetya' that infected computers of businesses worldwide causing nearly $1 billion in losses.

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NATO risks angering Putin as it deepens 'cyber cooperation' with Ukraine after 'Russian attack'

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