Russian forces continue to encounter strong resistance and self-inflicted logistical problems. Talks between the two sides are set to resume today, but with modest expectations.
Provocations and pretexts.
On Friday Russia's permanent representative to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, brought before the Security Council the preposterous claim that Ukraine, with American assistance, was preparing to use biological weapons against Russia, and that Russia felt a high-minded concern that the effects of such weapons would be difficult to confine to Russia and Ukraine. The Guardian quotes the ambassador as saying, “We call upon you to think about a very real biological danger to the people in European countries, which can result from an uncontrolled spread of bio agents from Ukraine. And if there is such a scenario then all Europe will be covered. The risk of this is very real given the interests of the radical nationalist groups in Ukraine are showing towards the work with dangerous pathogens conducted together with the ministry of defence of the United States.”
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published an early and convincing debunking of RT's stories; the US State Department has published a more recent refutation. There are concerns that claims of Ukrainian biowar plans and capabilities are intended to provide a pretext for Russian use of biological or (more likely) chemical weapons.
Cyber operations against Ukraine.
Satellite Internet service delivered by Viasat was interrupted on February 24th, around H-hour of Russia's invasion. The US National Security Agency, France's ANSSI, and Ukrainian intelligence services are jointly investigating whether the incident was a Russian cyberattack. The target and the timing, at least, suggest that it was. "The hackers disabled modems that communicate with Viasat Inc's KA-SAT satellite, which supplies internet access to some customers in Europe, including Ukraine. More than two weeks later some remain offline," Reuters reports.
The Record reported Friday that Ukrainian Internet access was coming under increasing attack. Two services are particularly affected: "Ukrtelecom (AS6849) [was] down nationally at 9:35 UTC (11:35am local) for ~40min" and "Triolan (AS13188) has been down nationally for over 12hrs due to reported cyber attack. Still almost entirely offline."
Cyber operations against Russia (and those connected with Russia).
Anonymous claims to have compromised the networks of Rosneft Deutschland, the German subsidiary of the Russian energy firm Rosneft. The collective appears most interested in tracking former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's activities. Herr Schröder chairs Rosneft’s supervisory board. The company itself is led by oligarch Igor Ivanovich Sechin, a close associate of President Putin.
Restraint in cyberspace, both Russian and Western.
The Viasat incident seems the most serious cyberattack of the war. Cyber incidents traceable to Russia have been observed outside the Ukrainian theater of operations (as in, for example, a case under investigation in County Kerry, Ireland) but these seem for the most part to be familiar criminal or at worst privateering capers that have long been run by the Russian underworld with Moscow's toleration and sometimes encouragement. While Russia's war against Ukraine has indeed been a hybrid war with cyber phases, those phases have been characterized by low-grade distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and website defacement. An essay by Jan Kalberg in the CyberWire offers an explanation of why this might be so: destructive attacks, once executed, are difficult to repeat, and deploying the cyber weapons such attacks would use should wait until it makes strategic sense to do so. If there's no combat advantage in, for example, taking down a power grid, it shouldn't be surprising that such attacks haven't yet materialized. The effects of a cyberattack, however devastating, are of finite duration, and it's difficult to repeat them at need. A similar calculus seems to be informing US restraint against Russian assets, POLITICO reports.
The CyberWire's continuing coverage of the unfolding crisis in Ukraine may be found here.