Ukraine Accuses Russia of Using WhatsApp Bot Farm to Ask Military to Surrender

Ukraine’s Security Service announced that it had disrupted a Russian operation that sent 5,000 messages to police and military officers asking to defect and surrender.
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Image: Security Service of Ukraine
Screen Shot 2021-02-24 at 3
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Ukraine’s intelligence service accused Russia of running a bot farm that sent around 5,000 text messages to local police and military members asking them to surrender and defect. 

On Thursday, the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) announced that it caught and disrupted  the “special information operation” that was designed to “destabilize moral and psychological state of Ukrainian security forces.”

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The message, according to the press release, said: “The outcome of events is predetermined! Be prudent and refuse to support nationalism and leaders of the country who discredited themselves and already fled the capital!!!”

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A screenshot of the text message allegedly sent by Russian intelligence to Ukranian law enforcement and intelligence members. (Image Security Service of Ukraine)

Judging from the screenshot of the message published by the SSU it appears like the campaign was conducted on WhatsApp. The SSU did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

WhatsApp did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The SSU said that it “quickly discovered and neutralized” the operation but “the enemy” was able to send 5,000 messages before that happened. According to the agency, the farm was run in an apartment in Dnipropetrovsk, a city in central Ukraine, and “remotely controlled from Russia.”

During the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has conducted relatively stealthy malware attacks as well as disinformation and psychological operations. In March, the SSU announced that it had detained a “hacker” that was helping Russian troops route calls, place anonymous phone calls to invaders, send messages to Ukrainian security forces asking them to surrender, and apparently a similar operation to the one disrupted Thursday. 

“[SSU] detained a hacker who provided the occupiers mobile connection in Ukraine,” the SSU wrote in its announcement at the time. 

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