Ukraine official says Russian cyberattacks on its energy network could equate to war crimes
- Russian cyberattacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure could equate to war crimes, Ukraine said.
- Ukraine is gathering evidence of Russian cyberattacks linked to military strikes, per Politico.
- The coordinated efforts directly impact Ukrainian civilians, said Ukraine’s top cyber official.
A senior Ukrainian cybersecurity official said Russian cyberattacks on critical and civilian infrastructure could equate to war crimes.
Victor Zhora, the chief digital transformation officer at the State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP), told Politico that Ukrainian officials are gathering evidence of Russian cyberattacks to share with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
The cyberattacks in focus are those linked to more traditional military attacks, said Zhora, who leads cybersecurity operations for SSSCIP, per Politico.
“When we observe the situation in cyberspace we notice some coordination between kinetic strikes and cyberattacks, and since the majority of kinetic attacks are organized against civilians — being a direct act of war crime — supportive actions in cyber can be considered as war crimes,” Zhora told Politico.
In the interview, the cybersecurity official cited several examples of Russian cyber warfare linked to military strikes, including an attack on DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private investor in the energy industry, last July.
That month, DTEK said in a press release that Russia carried out a cyberattack on its infrastructure at the same time as a missile attack on the Kryvorizka power station.
“Their thermal power plant was shelled, and simultaneously, their corporate network was attacked,” Zhora told Politico of the incident. “It’s directed and planned activity from Russians, which they did both in conventional domain and in cyber domain.”
Zhora noted other examples of coordinated attacks in Odesa, Lviv, and Mykolaiv, Politico reported.
The cybersecurity official said that shelling was supported by cyberattacks on “local authorities, websites, or on local internet service providers,” per the media outlet.
A June 2022 Microsoft intelligence report highlighted numerous examples of coordinated kinetic and cyberattacks on Ukraine by Russia-backed groups.
These types of coordinated efforts directly impact Ukrainian civilians by disrupting the IT infrastructure, power grids, telecommunications, and critical infrastructure they depend on, Zhora told Politico.
Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, including energy facilities, were last month described by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as possible war crimes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed last month that Russia is targeting energy infrastructure but accused Ukrainian forces of doing it first. “Yes, we are doing it, but who started it?” Putin said in a video reported on by Politico.
Russia has been accused of multiple war crimes since it launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Andriy Kostin, said in September that his office had documented some 34,000 potential war crimes committed by Russian forces.