Ukraine has accused Russian intelligence officials of being behind a major hack on German government websites this week, allegedly in response to Berlin's financial and political support of Kiev.
The cyber attack, which occurred ahead of a potential meeting today between Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, temporarily took down a number of websites including the Bundestag's — Germany's lower parliament house — and Merkel's official website at around 10am on Wednesday.
Pro-Russia hacktivist group CyberBerkut immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on its website, which it alleged was in response to Germany's "financial and political support of the criminal regime in Kiev, which unleashed a bloody civil war."
But during a Thursday interview on German television, Yatsenyuk claimed Russia had orchestrated the hack.
"I strongly recommend that the Russian secret services stop spending taxpayer money for cyber attacks against the Bundestag and Chancellor Merkel's office," Yatsenyuk told ZDF TV.
The attack is believed to be the first successful continuous hack on German government websites, which is assaulted by roughly 3,000 attempted hacks a day, German intelligence said.
Germany's federal intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), recently said at least five of the daily attempted cyber attacks stem from foreign intelligence services.
On its website, CyberBerkut accused Yatsenyuk of seeking billions of dollars in funding from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to finance the government's ongoing campaign against pro-Russia separatists in the country's east.
"This war has claimed thousands of lives, and Yatsenyuk wants your money to kill thousands more," the group wrote.
The term "Berkut" refers to the Ukrainian police riot squads former pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovich unleashed on protesters during the popular uprising in Ukraine in the winter of 2014. Yanukovich's ousting during those deadly demonstrations was later followed by Russia's annexation of Crimea and the continuing deterioration of East-West relations within Ukraine, as eastern separatists seek to break away from the state and form closer ties with Moscow.
Several tenuous ceasefires signed between Kiev, Moscow, and the pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine have not abated the rising death toll in regions such as Donetsk and Luhansk, which held their own leadership elections — deemed by Kiev as "illegal" — in November.
Berlin has been a major supporter of Kiev from the onset of the conflict. On Wednesday, Merkel said, "Germany will continue to do everything to support Ukraine," and pledged 500 million euros ($593M) in credit for Ukraine, dependent on Germany's prior approval of the use of the money.
Merkel also said European sanctions on Russia, which have crippled its economy of late, would only be lifted if Moscow made "visible progress" to adhere to the 12 points of the September 2014 peace accord signed by all parties in Minsk. One of the main points in the agreement is that Russia withdraws all military presence near its border with eastern Ukraine, which it has yet to do.
Germany and the EU previously helped broker a deal that would guarantee Russian natural gas would reach Ukraine's residents ahead of the region's brutal winter. The agreement is set to expire at the end of March.
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