As the ongoing war in Eastern Europe transcended 3 months with Russian forces relentlessly invading Ukrainian cities and the EU announcing an embargo on more than two-thirds of Moscow’s oil imports, the raging conflict continues to stir a global response. On Tuesday, during an interview with the US broadcaster Newsmax, embattled President Zelenskyy stated that Ukrainian troops aim to reoccupy the entire territory and that Kyiv also does not care about Russia’s plans. During the interview, Zelenskyy also added that he would not order the use of advanced missile systems as expected from the United States to attack neighbouring Russia.
This came after US President Joe Biden had announced that the country was deploying an advanced rocket system to Ukraine to strike key targets. According to reports, the weapons provided by America are High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), which can destroy the target even from a distance of 80 kilometres. Notably, these weapons were provided to the war-hit nation to hit a target inside Russia.
Pro-Ukrainian hacktivists obtained data from numerous Russian organizations, including its military.
“Major websites of Russian governmental and public institutions have been temporarily taken down, using tools rapidly created at the start of the war by pro-Ukrainian cyber activists that have enabled anyone with a minimum knowledge of cybertech to take part in cyberattacks,” Dmytro Dubov, Head of the Information Security and Cybersecurity Department of the National Institute for Strategic Studies in Kyiv, writes.
In his latest analysis of the Russo-Ukrainian war in the cyber realm, he listed five challenges to Russia’s cybersecurity and cyberwar capabilities.
“Unless addressed, these challenges will degrade Russia’s ability to compete in the highly dynamic sphere of cyberspace – even as the war in Ukraine has shown the extent of its failures to deliver effects in this domain, too,” Dubov said.
1. Shortage of specialists. Due to the increasing number of cyberattacks against Russia, the country’s best specialists have to focus on defense, decreasing their offensive potential. Russia, facing a massive scope of cyberattacks, needs to allocate its resources and investigate what was taken from them and how far the hackers got in.
2. Limited awareness of cybersecurity. The cyberattack on the Russian Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) is a prominent example of the lack of awareness of the need for strong cybersecurity. It was forced to switch to pen and paper after losing 65TB of data.
“Successful cyberattacks on the websites of the Russian government, president, public and security services, and central bank have shown that despite attention to, and public funding of, cybersecurity, the abilities of Russian cybersecurity specialists tend to be limited,” Dubov writes.
3. Weak operational skills of mid-level specialists. Dubov claims that Russian hackers have failed to show their supposed mastery in this active cyber confrontation. “Russia’s responses in the current cyber conflict have been poorly thought out, and its cyberattacks against Ukraine have been partly supported by data gathered by Russian intelligence agencies through traditional means such as human espionage.”
4. Withdrawal of foreign expertise. Nearly 40 cybersecurity companies have announced their withdrawal from the Russian market and have suspended service for Russian clients.
This presents long-term challenges, as many software or hardware solutions cannot be replaced by Russian-owned technologies (according to local specialists, replacement may require 6 to 12 months.)
Russia is now on a quest to create a sovereign internet. The Kremlin has actively endorsed any initiative to develop domestic digital services in place of Western competitors.
“A Presidential Decree of 30 March 2022 required all purchases of foreign software for Russian CIFs to be suspended from 31 March and prohibited the use of foreign software from 1 January 2025. Further, by the end of September 2022, the Russian government must develop a plan to replace foreign-made radio, electronic, and telecommunication devices with Russian ones,” Dubov writes, doubting this is even possible to achieve.
“In any event, a ban on importing technologies will be a sham, as it will only make the existing practice of purchasing Chinese products and replacing ‘made in China’ labels with ‘from Russian manufacturers’ even more widespread,” he added.
5. Brain drain. This March, a Concord group company associated with an oligarch close to Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin, urged the government to draft a law to make it harder for IT specialists to travel abroad.
“Both the Russian Ministry of Digital Development and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later denied this, and the information was deleted. State Duma member Alexander Khinshtein suggested establishing ‘IT- joints,’ similar to the Soviet-era semi- prisons where sentenced specialists worked on R&D projects, supervised by the security service. It seems that this was not a serious proposal, but as many Russian IT specialists have been arrested recently, it may have been a trial balloon intended to test the idea and to mentally prepare the Russian public,” Dubov said.
Ukraine’s aim is to reoccupy entire territory: Zelenskyy
“Look, we’re not planning to attack Russia, we’re not interested in the Russian Federation, we’re not fighting on their territory,” Zelensky told Newsmax, reported The Moscow Times.
At a time when Ukraine is already fighting a tough battle with the Russian forces, the multiple rocket launchers deployed by the Ukrainian forces represent an important upgrade in the war strategy. According to the official, the Himars are the centrepiece of a $700 million package provided to the war-ravaged country. The military aid provided by the United States to Ukraine also includes air surveillance radars, more Javelin short-range anti-tank rockets, more artillery ammunition, helicopters, vehicles, and spare parts.
The announcement also put a stop to ongoing speculation that Himars were going to Ukraine following continuous pleas from the Ukrainian military. With this development, it has become clear that the US is firmly standing with Ukraine while not taking a step forward to be seen as a direct belligerent. Notably, the new weapons will come from a recently announced fund of $40 billion, out of which the Biden administration has already sent $4.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the start of the war.
Ever since Kremlin leader Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, hostilities between both nations have led to several thousand deaths and massive destruction in the war-torn nation. Reports have emerged that the situation in the Eastern part of Ukraine is ‘difficult’. “The situation on the Eastern Front is currently difficult due to the lack of necessary weapons, but Ukraine will liberate its territories, focusing on the effectiveness of hostilities and the maximum preservation of people’s lives,” Zelenskyy said on Tuesda
Areport by global policy think tank Rand Corporation said that US’ five main allies in Asia – Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines – are unlikely to agree to host US’ ground-based intermediate-range missiles.
The intermediate-range missiles are central to US strategy to infiltrate China’s defenses if it invades Taiwan in near future.
Senior political scientist Jeffrey Hornung who authored the paper pointed out that there is a small chance that Australia and Japan could host the ground-based intermediate-range missiles (GBIRMs), while adding that neither the Philippines or Thailand would give a nod to such an arrangement.
It also points out that the US, once bound by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, does not have any GBIRMs in its arsenal compared to 1,250 ground-based intermediate-range missiles that Beijing has.
The European Union has added its voice to the cautiously positive international reaction to Sunday’s announcement of the lifting of the State of Emergency, and pledge to release detainees, by Sudan’s Sovereignty Council.
The State of Emergency, which came into effect following the October 25 military coup and was underpinned by the dissolution of the transitional cabinet, initiated nationwide anti-coup protests that have rocked Sudan ever since.
The Sovereignty Council says that they hope this decision will provide “a fruitful and meaningful dialogue that achieves stability during the transitional period”.
In a statement via the spokesperson in Brussels, the EU welcomes the announced lifting of the State of Emergency throughout the country and the release of detainees “as commendable first steps in creating the much needed conducive environment for dialogue”.
The EU also welcomes the decision to allow the Al Jazeera Live channel to resume its operations in Sudan. The Sudanese Ministry of Information and Culture withdrew the license of Al Jazeera Live in January.
‘The EU calls upon all parties to engage actively and constructively in the dialogue efforts… ‘
“Time is of the essence for Sudan’s efforts to find an inclusive and sustainable way out of the current crisis, which is severely affecting the population,” the EU statement says. “We therefore call upon authorities to continue their efforts to create a truly conducive environment for dialogue, by completing the release of those who were detained since 25 October last, ensuring due process to those detainees who face criminal charges against them, and effectively ending the violence against peaceful demonstrators, allowing them to enjoy their basic human rights of assembly and expression.“
The statement underlines: “It is crucial for alleged violations of human rights to be investigated and for perpetrators to be held to account. The EU calls upon all parties to engage actively and constructively in the dialogue efforts, facilitated by the trilateral mechanism of UNITAMS, AU, and IGAD*. They have our full support,” the statement concludes.