Ukraine was hit by a massive cyberattack on Friday, warning its citizens to “expect the worst,” and Russia, which has deployed more than 100,000 troops at its neighbor’s border, released TV images of more forces stationed at an exercise are.
The developments came after no breakthrough was achieved at meetings between Russia and Western states, which fear Moscow could launch a new attack on the country it invaded in 2014.
“The drumbeat of war is beating loud,” said a senior US diplomat.
Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine but says it could take unspecified action if demands are not met, including a pledge by the NATO alliance never to include Kiev.
Ukrainian authorities were investigating Friday’s massive cyberattack, which hit government bodies including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Security and Defense Council.
“Ukrainian! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore it,” reads a message seen on hacked government websites and written in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish is written.
“All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future.”
The spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry told Reuters it was too early to say who might be behind the attack, but said Russia had been behind similar attacks in the past.
Russia did not immediately comment, but has previously denied being behind cyber attacks on Ukraine.
The European Union’s top diplomat condemned the attack and said the EU’s political and security committee and cyber units would meet to see how to respond and help Kiev.
“We will mobilize all our resources to help Ukraine deal with this cyber attack. Unfortunately, we knew it could happen,” Josep Borrell told reporters at a meeting in the western French city of Brest.
Meanwhile, Russia said troops in its Far East were training to deploy to distant military bases for drills as part of an inspection. Defense Ministry footage released by the RIA news agency showed scores of armored vehicles and other military equipment being loaded onto trains in the Eastern Military District.
“This is likely cover for the units moving toward Ukraine,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst and fellow at the US Foreign Policy Research Institute.
The moves showed that Russia has no intention of defusing tensions over Ukraine, having used its troop surge to force the West to the negotiating table and make sweeping demands for “security guarantees” — key elements of which were endorsed by the United States described as a non-starter.
Washington warned Thursday that the risk of a Russian military invasion was high. Russia has consistently denied this.
Moscow said the dialogue is continuing but has hit a “dead end” as it tried to persuade the West to bar Ukraine from joining NATO and roll back the alliance’s decades-long expansion in Europe.
The United States and NATO have rejected these demands, but have agreed to discuss arms control, missile deployments, confidence-building measures, and limitations on military exercises.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow expects a written reply point by point to its proposals.