Hacked emails reveal ties between Kremlin and Ukraine rebels

The Associated Press reports: A group of Ukrainian hackers has released thousands of emails from an account used by a senior Kremlin official that appear to show close financial and political ties between Moscow and separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine.

The cache published by the Ukrainian group CyberHunta reveals contacts between President Vladimir Putin’s adviser Vladislav Surkov and the pro-Russia rebels fighting Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine’s National Security Service said Wednesday the emails were real, although they added the files may have been tampered with. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the published emails as a sham, saying Wednesday that Surkov doesn’t use email.

Russian journalist Svetlana Babaeva told The Associated Press emails from her in the cache were genuine. “I sent those emails,” Babaeva said, referring to three emails in the leak discussing arrangements for an off-the-record meeting between Surkov and editors at her publication.

Russian businessmen Evgeny Chichivarkin, who lives in London, said in a Facebook post Wednesday that emails attributed to him in the cache were genuine too. [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports: Sanctioned and thus banned from travel to the EU for his role in the Kremlin’s Ukraine policy, the 52-year-old Surkov nevertheless popped up at recent four-way negotiations in Berlin over Ukraine, sitting at the round table next to Putin, and just one seat across from Angela Merkel. It was a very visible signal of Surkov’s importance to the Kremlin’s controversial Ukraine policy.

Several sources have told the Guardian that Surkov has on occasion made secret trips to Donetsk, technically still part of Ukraine, to bring local separatist politicians into line and tell them what is expected of them if they are to continue to receive Russian funding and support. More regularly, emissaries from east Ukraine come to Moscow to meet with Surkov. [Continue reading…]

Chris Zappone writes: The timing of the hack and the target, Vladislav Surkov, suggest that this could be a form of retaliation for the purported Russian hacking of the US election.

The group, called Kiberkhunta (or Cyber Junta) posted 2000 emails from Surkov dating from between September 2013 and November 2014.

Coming against the backdrop of the Russian cyber campaign against the US during the current presidential election year, at least one analyst sees the possibility of a connection to those events.

“It is possible that we are seeing the first example of mutually assured doxing,” said Kenneth Geers, Kiev-based Senior Research Scientist at COMODO, referring to the practice of hacking and publishing private emails.

‘Mutually assured doxing’ is a play on the Cold War concept of Mutually Assured Destruction – the permanent nuclear stand-off between Russia and the US which dissuaded either side from starting a war.

“We should usually assume there is some political goal behind every leak,” he said.

Geers, who is also an ambassador for the NATO Cyber Centre, said the Surkov leak may hint at an emerging behavioural norm between nation states.

“We may see a doxing escalation ladder materialise: how far do you want me to go, all the way to the top?” said Geers.

“As painful as it is today, doxing serves a long-term historical role in reducing corruption.” [Continue reading…]

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