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EU Condemns Cyberattack on Ukraine, NATO Pledges 'Enhanced Cyber Cooperation'

January 17, 2022

The White House Friday reached out to Ukraine to offer its support after several of its government agencies suffered a cyberattack overnight.

A White House National Security Council ((NSC)) spokesman tells VOA that U.S. President Joe Biden was briefed on the attack, which shut down as many as 15 Ukraine’s government websites. The spokesman said the NSC has offered whatever support it can provide as it continues to access the impact of the attack.

Ukraine's foreign ministry reported Friday the ministries affected included the treasury, the national emergency service and the state services, where Ukrainians' electronic passports and vaccination certificates are stored.

The websites contained a message from the hackers in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, saying Ukrainians' personal data has been leaked into the public domain, though Ukraine’s State Service of Communication and Information Protection told the Associated Press there was no evidence personal data has been leaked.

Oleksiy Danilov, Ukraine's National Defense and Security Council secretary, told VOA Friday the hackers did not reach their goal, which he said was to shut key parts of Ukraine’s government. He said the attack came around 2 a.m., and many of the sites were brought back up immediately, while others were still down hours later.

While it is difficult to determine exactly who was behind the attack, Danilov told VOA Russia is the only country that can perform a cyberattack on such a scale.

Meanwhile, European Union officials also condemned Friday's cyberattack and pledged to use EU resources to assist the nation.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance's cyber experts have been exchanging information with their Ukrainian counterparts on "the current malicious cyber activities." He said NATO-allied experts in the country are also supporting Ukrainian authorities.

Stoltenberg also announced NATO and Ukraine will sign an agreement on enhanced cyber cooperation, which would include giving Ukraine access to NATO's malware information-sharing platform.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brest, France, EU Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell issued the "strongest condemnation" of the attack and said an emergency meeting of the EU political committee would be held to discuss how to react. He pledged to "mobilize all our resources to help Ukraine" increase its cyberattack-resistance capability.

The incident follows a week of largely fruitless diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions along Russian-Ukrainian border, where Moscow has amassed an estimated 100,000 troops and equipment, raising fears of an imminent invasion.

Russia insists the troops are there for its own protection but is demanding NATO provide guarantees it will stop its eastward expansion, beginning with not allowing Ukraine to join the alliance, a move Moscow perceives as a threat. NATO has repeatedly rejected that request, saying Russia has no veto over NATO membership for other countries.

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