Hackers targeted the websites of major Russian media outlets on Monday, including the state-run news agency Tass, to display a message with the current number of Russian army casualties reported by the Ukrainian military, figures that the Russian state has not officially released to the Russian public.
The figures in the message from the hackers haven’t been independently verified by international authorities. But the move is part of a tsunami of hacktivism in opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Earlier someone leaked internal messages from the pro-Russia ransomware group Conti.
“Dear citizens. We urge you to stop this madness, do not send your sons and husbands to certain death. Putin makes us lie and puts us in danger,” the message displayed on the websites read. “This message will be deleted, and some of us will be fired or even jailed. But we can't take it anymore.”
On top of an image of the Russian flag, the message added that there have been “5,300 dead Russian soldiers in Ukraine in four days,” and that this was “More than during the First Chechen War (1994-1996).”
News sites Fontanka and Kommersant were also targeted in the hack. The message included a logo for the hacking collective Anonymous.
Roskomnadzor, the Russian state media regulator, previously said that media outlets are allowed to only use information and data from official Russian sources concerning what it describes as the “special operation” in Ukraine. On Sunday, Russian army spokesperson Igor Konashenkov admitted on state television that Russian troops have been killed and injured in the invasion, but did not specify how many.
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Tass’ editorial department itself reported on the hack, publishing a statement from the company’s corporate communications department.
“The TASS news agency's website has been under constant massive hacker attacks over the past few days. Today, the attackers managed to breakthrough. Work to restore the TASS website's performance is currently underway,” the statement read. Tass’ article claimed that the hackers “posted information that does not correspond to reality.”
The 5,300 figure itself comes from an update on the website of the Ukrainian military. On Monday, the website said that the total losses of the enemy from February 24 to February 28 included “Personnel approximately 5300 (to be specified).”