Stories from Quick Reads and Ukraine
As the world watches Russian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists occupy Ukrainian administration buildings, cities, and even an entire peninsula, a group of Ukrainian hackers is fighting back by launching an invasion of their own.
Since this summer, Ukrainian hacker Yevgeniy Dokukin and his group of fellow computer pros calling themselves Ukrainian Cyber Forces have carried out “Operation Bond, James Bond,” in which they leaked web camera and security footage from Crimea, separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine, and even government offices in Russia. Dokukin and the Ukrainian Cyber Forces have been leaking videos from cameras for months now, including a video supposedly from a separatist base in Donetsk.
A few weeks ago, Dokukin and his allies took up new weapons in their cyberwar: printers. In a series of Facebook posts, Dokukin has explained how, after accessing private WiFi networks, the Ukrainian Cyber Forces were able to print documents on vulnerable networked printers in various offices in Crimea and separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine, and were now trying to do the same in Russian networks.
— MustLive (@MustLiveUA) December 8, 2014
#UkrainianCyberForces have begun occupying networked printers in Donbas and in Crimea.
As Dokukin told RuNet Echo, he sees the wasted ink and paper in Russia as a variant on Ukraine’s own “economic sanctions” aimed at its neighbor. The messages appearing on these printers vary, but they share a common theme:
Якщо ваш мережевий принтер передасть “вітання Путіну” чи надрукує “Слава Україні!” та інші цікаві надписи, то знайте, що він під нашим контролем.
If your network printer passes along “greetings to Putin” or prints “Glory to Ukraine!” or other interesting messages, then you know that it is under our control.
Not all of Dokukin’s printer messages were meant to be confrontational. Recently, the Ukrainian Cyber Forces accessed an open network printer in Canada—an especially strong ally of Ukraine throughout the ongoing crisis—and printed the message “Thanks for supporting Ukraine!” in English.
As Russia increases its support of information warfare, including slick redesigns of its news agencies and propping up fake Ukrainian news sites, Ukrainian Cyber Forces are taking the trolling and information war to their opponents—and their offices—more directly.
Ukraine's new foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, is in hot water on the Russian Internet today, where bloggers are drawing attention to his first subscriptions on Twitter. RuNet users have noticed that some of the first accounts Klimkin chose to follow are US politicians John McCain and Mitt Romney, the neoconservative American think tanks the Foreign Policy Institute and the Lugar Center, and the US State Department itself. Serving a new government in Kiev that Moscow regularly accuses of kowtowing to Washington, Klimkin has provided critics of Ukraine with fresh ammunition in the information war between Russia and the West.
A Russian chocolate company in Novosibirsk has released a new candy bar called “The Crimea” with the slogan, “Just try to grab it!” A product announcement shared with the press features a super-hero character wearing the colors of the Russian flag, standing before a map of Crimea, with the following tagline:
Даже в то время, когда страна принимает непростые решения, мы не перестаем улыбаться. Потому что мы—Россияне!
Even in times when the country is making difficult decisions, we never stop smiling. That's because we are Russians!
The company responsible for this new confection, “Chocolate Traditions,” has produced other specially themed sweets. Earlier this year, it announced a fudge bar called “the Viagra.” There are also several holiday-themed candy collections, for Victory Day, Women's Day, and so on. One kilogram (2.2 pounds) of the Crimea chocolates costs 130 rubles (about $4).
Russian Internet users have showed great interest in the new Crimea-themed candy bar. According to Yandex's blogs search engine, the past few hours have seen over a thousand posts on the subject. Many Russians have noticed that the chocolate bars expire after ten months, leading several bloggers to joke that Russia's occupation of Crimea won't last another year.
В российских конфетах “Крым – а ну-ка, отбери” срок годности 10 месяцев. В январе Крым вновь станет украинским. pic.twitter.com/10y2Zhd4uu
— Льовочкинъ (@slevo4kin) June 5, 2014
The Russian candy “Crimea—just try to grab it” has a shelf life of 10 months. In January, Crimea will become Ukrainian again.
Bloggers in Ukraine are turning to the Internet to publish the locations of troops in the country’s southeast, where the army is in the midst of a massive “counter-terrorist” operation against militants who have seized control of parts of major cities. A group called “Military Maps” on the Russian social network Vkontakte has created an application that allows any user to mark the location of soldiers and military hardware on maps of Ukraine. The service appears to be the work of separatist sympathizers hoping to provide rebel combatants with tactical intelligence.
Друзья! Не забываем! pic.twitter.com/bht8Thd8sA
— ЄВРОМАЙДАН (@euromaidan) April 17, 2014
“Friends! We won't forget!” [Image reads, "Attention: Ukraine's Ministry of Defense asks Internet-users to remain silent about the movements of Ukrainian army troops."]
The accuracy and timeliness of “Military Maps” is questionable, but some Ukrainian bloggers are taking the threat seriously, spreading a message from the country’s defense ministry warning against discussing online the army’s movements. As early as mid-March this year, the Ukrainian government has cautioned citizens against revealing such information on the Internet. In mid-April, the mega-popular Twitter account “euromaidan” disseminated the same message again (see above), collecting nearly 900 retweets and favorites. Now, as Odessa slips into apparent anarchy and Kiev’s soldiers battle their way into cities throughout the southeast, bloggers are again calling on people to avoid posting about troop movements.
“Is Crimea referendum a good model for Africa?” asks Richard Dowden:
Africa’s arbitrary borders, mostly drawn by people who had never set foot in the continent, have always been an obvious target for renegotiation. But Africa’s first rulers, who foresaw chaos and disintegration if the nation states were reconfigured, ruled it out. “Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each State” was one of the founding principles of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the forerunner of the African Union. Despite all the wars, internal and external, this principle has been pretty much adhered to by both presidents and people.
Loyalty to an African state is not always related to the ability of that state to make the lives of its people better. Patriotism, an emotional thing, does not take these benefits into account, even in countries where the majority of citizens are marginalised or oppressed by the government. Even in the catastrophic recent meltdown of South Sudan after just two years of independence, no one is advocating return to rule from Khartoum. In the dying days of Mobutu’s Zaire (now the DRC) I was astonished to find that people felt it to be a great country. I asked why Katanga, the rich south east province, didn’t secede – as it had in 1960. My suggestion was greeted with shocked surprise.
IP addresses inside the Russian government continue to be active on Wikipedia, where a computer at the Russian Secret Service, the FSO, revised the German entry for Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, changing the word “separatists” into “rebels.” The Twitter bot @RuGovEdits, which automatically logs all Wikipedia edits made from Russian government IP addresses, caught five separate attempts by an FSO computer this morning to make the “rebels” language stick. The effort failed. German Wikipedia editors reverted the article's language to the original text, every time.
According to a report [uk] by RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe), heads of district police departments in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv have been ordered to set up Facebook profiles. As of June 25, 2014, all of them can be found and contacted through the social network, which the Head of the Lviv Regional Department of the Ministry of Interior believes will ensure prompt reaction [uk] of law enforcement officials towards reports from citizens.
Public trust towards law enforcement institutions in Ukraine has reached an all time low during the recent public uprisings, known as #Euromaidan. After a consequent change of government, the new Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov has led a practice of publicly reporting on his activities through a personal Facebook profile [ru], which has been received positively by a large audience.
Angie Ramos guest blogs [es] at Tintero Político about the crisis in Ukraine and after analyzing different key factors involved concludes with the reaction of the internacional community:
The thing is, the international community, facing cases like this one, acts subjectively as it depends on the magnitude of the interests involved to support or express rejection to some interventionism in various countries. Is it that some countries have privileges for the international community? For instance, in the case of the conflict between Great Britain and Argentina regarding Falkland Islands, a referendum carried out on the population, where 98% of the population voted for staying under Great Britain's administration, received support, while in Crimea, there is no will for acknowleding the legality of the process.
A group of artists in Kiev has opened a new exhibit that many Russians are calling dangerously xenophobic. Yesterday, April 24, 2014, the “Ukrainian Cultural Front” presented four interactive installations intended to criticize Russia for its opposition to the EuroMaidan movement and its interventions in southeastern Ukraine. The most controversial exhibit (titled “Beware of Russians!”) featured three homely-looking men trapped behind a fence, dressed as stereotypical Russians. (One man wore a tracksuit, another donned military camouflage, and a third sat on a flattened cardboard box, playing the balalaika and begging for spare change.) Posted on different sides of the fence were signs like those one finds at a zoo, reading “Beware of Occupiers!” and “Please Do Not Feed!”
The art exhibit was in such obvious bad taste, many Russians seem to believe, that several of the RuNet's most vocal patriotic bloggers simply reposted photos from the installation, not even bothering to specify their objections. Of course, many others found it necessary to articulate the dangers of Russophobia. Publicist Dmitry Olshansky, whose Facebook texts are among the Russian blogosphere's most vociferously pro-intervention, wrote threateningly that the “motor” of today's conflict between Russia and Ukraine rests entirely on “Ukraine's certainty that Russians will never respond to anything.”
On March 25, 2014 designer and one of the most popular RuNet bloggers, Tema Lebedev, announced on his blog that his design studio, ArtLevedev created the logo for the “2014, a Year of Culture” project, commissioned by the Russian government:
Shortly after, one of his readers posted a comment [ru] to his blog, with the logo jokingly photoshoped to look like a swastika:
This image was in picked up by Ukrainian Twitter user Katya Avramchuk, who posted it saying that this was the actual logo designed by Lebedev's studio:
Студия Артемия Лебедева (Эркен Кагаров) разработала логотип Года культуры в России pic.twitter.com/yJLKRFn6zE
— The Avramchuk Post (@avramchuk_katya) March 25, 2014
Artemiy Lebedev's studio (Erken Kagarov) designed the logo for Russia's year of culture.
From here, the Tweet was re-posted [ru] by popular Russian-language Ukrainian Twitter @euromaidan, which tweeted it without attribution. This post has been re-tweeted 389 times. No trace of the original (funny or not) joke remains, just another entry into a name-calling “Who is the bigger Nazi” contest between Russians and Ukrainians.