Tag Archives: OSCE

Putin, Poroshenko talk on phone, – Kremlin

The conversation was held in the framework of telephone negotiations between the leaders of the Normandy Quartet on the situation in Donbas

President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Continue reading Putin, Poroshenko talk on phone, – Kremlin


Russian Government Accused of Hacking US, Nato and Eastern European Military Secrets

NATO Hacked by Russian Government

The Russian government has long been suspected of being heavily involved in cyber-espionage campaigns against a range of targets including a network compromise at the US Department of Defence in 2008, and a cyber-attack which coincided with its invasion of Georgia also in 2008.

Until now these allegations have been just that, lacking concrete evidence that the Russian government has sanctioned any such actions.

Today, security company FireEye has published a report entitled ‘APT28: A Window Into Russia’s Cyber Espionage Operations‘ which may lack details on specific buildings, personnel or government agencies, but what it does have “is evidence of long-standing, focused operations that indicate a government sponsor – specifically, a government based in Moscow.”

The report details the work of a team of “skilled Russian developers and operators” dubbed APT28 which has been collecting information from defence and geopolitical intelligence targets including the Republic of Georgia, Eastern European governments and militaries, and European security organisations – all areas which FireEye says are of interest to the Russian government.


According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, earlier in 2014 FireEye was called into the US defence contractor Science Applications International (previously known as Blackwater) and discovered a highly sophisticated tool which was able to evade detection and even spread through a computer network which was not connected to the internet.

The cyber-weapon was coded on Russian-language machines and written during working hours in Moscow, strongly pointing to Russian government involvement in the creation of this tool.

Unlike the highly-active hacking groups backed by the Chinese government, the Russian group known as APT28 was not interested in stealing intellectual property or profiting from pilfered financial account information – it simply wanted to remain undetected, collecting information on its targets.

APT28 has been in operation since at least 2007 and in that time has been systematically evolving its malware “using flexible and lasting platforms indicative of plans for long-term use and sophisticated coding practices that suggest an interest in complicating reverse engineering efforts.”

Previous reports about the Russian government’s involvement in high-level cyber-espionage campaigns have been limited to hearsay or speculation.

“Despite rumours of the Russian government’s alleged involvement in high-profile government and military cyber-attacks, there has been little hard evidence of any link to cyber-espionage,” said Dan McWhorter, FireEye VP of Threat Intelligence.

“FireEye’s latest advance persistent threat report sheds light on cyber-espionage operations that we assess to be most likely sponsored by the Russian government, long believed to be a leader among major nations in performing sophisticated network attacks.”-


The report also highlights the sophistication of the campaigns carried out by APT28, including a formal code development environment and configuring malware to send data back using the victim’s own mail server to avoid detection.

APT28 targeted victims by using spear-phishing campaigns, sending emails which looked to come from reputable sources with topics which would be relevant to their targets.

APT28 has been targeting three main themes in its campaigns according to FireEye – Caucasus (especially the Georgian government), Eastern European governments and militaries, and specific security organisations including NATO and OSCE.

FireEye says the group’s sophisticated development process and long-term outlook suggests it receives “direct ongoing financial and other resources from a well-established organisation, most likely a nation state government” which is another indication that this is a group backed by the Russian government.

3,660 killed, 8,756 injured in east Ukrainian conflict

GENEVA, October 8 (RIA Novosti) – At least 3,660 people were killed and 8,756 injured in the civil conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine in the period between mid-April and October 6, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Wednesday.

A total of 331 deaths were registered between September 6 and October 6, the organization said.

After the September 5 meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine, Kiev authorities and the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk agreed on a ceasefire, which came into force on the same day.

Since the establishment of the ceasefire, the parties of the conflict have repeatedly accused one another of violating the truce, although the OSCE said last month that the ceasefire was generally holding.

Germans set to send first troops to Ukraine since WW2

Germany is poised for its first deployment of troops in Ukraine amid the crumbling ceasefire between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government. Pictured: Donetsk International Airport damaged during fighting

Berlin is mulling sending troops to monitor the shaky ceasefire between Kiev forces and local militia in eastern Ukraine, a German government source told Reuters.

The source told the agency that a German troop deployment would depend on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which could move to send in troops to monitor the ceasefire it helped broker on September 5 in Minsk, Belarus.

If such a political decision were made, the number of troops sent by Germany would depend on the security situation in Ukraine and conditions set by the OSCE, the source said.

OSCE observers take pictures at the site where pro-Russian say is a mass grave with five bodies, in the town of Nizhnaya Krinka, eastern Ukraine, September 23, 2014. (Reuters / Marko Djurica)

German newspaper Bild, however, said that 200 soldiers were planned for the mission. Around 150 would help monitor the crisis area with drones, and an additional 50 would provide security.

Last month, France and Germany offered to send drones to help bolster OSCE monitoring of the ceasefire in Ukraine’s troubled east.

The daily said the mission was in reaction to a Franco-German fact-finding mission in mid-September, which determined that the ceasefire could only be effectively monitored if boots on the ground provided security for monitoring staff.

A Ukrainian serviceman (R) and OSCE observers wait on a road near Donetsk.(AFP Photo / Anatolii Stepanov)

A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry told Reuters that Berlin and Paris are hammering out a plan to support the OSCE mission, but were only in the exploratory phase.

Germany has also dispatched more than 100 trucks from 17 different cities to deliver aid, including mobile kitchens, heating devices and blankets, to Ukraine, Der Spiegel reported.

The aid, set to be distributed by mid-October, will specifically be deployed to the east of the country before the onset of winter. The value of the cargo is estimated at 10 million euro.

A pro-Russian rebel tank rolls to take position near to the airport in the town of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine

Meanwhile, the OSCE called for an immediate ceasefire in eastern Ukraine on Friday after civilians and a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were killed.

Kiev and militia forces have accused each other side of being responsible for the deaths resulting from the shelling of residential areas in Donetsk.

“The ceasefire represented a real opportunity for a sustainable de-escalation of the situation; to put it at risk would be irresponsible and deplorable,” Didier Burkhalter, the OSCE chairperson-in-office, was quoted by the organization’s press service as saying.

Burkhalter added that civilians Ukraine’s east needed a return to normalcy, while humanitarian aid agencies needed to be able to safely reach them before winter.

According to reports, fighting for Donetsk Airport has continued on Saturday. Ukrainian military spokesman Andrey Lysenko told journalists that 12 militia members were killed during the assault, “the biggest single loss among rebels since September 5.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) has led European moves to secure peace in Ukraine, but until now Berlin has been reluctant to deploy even peacekeeping troops because of the country’s role in the Second World War

Lysenko added that two Ukrainian servicemen were killed during the past 24 hours, though he provided no further details. He denied local reports that rebels had used gas during their assault on the airfield.

Fighters in Donetsk said they were honoring the truce, ITAR-TASS new agency reported, citing a statement from the self-proclaimed republic’s Defense Ministry.

At least 3,627 people have been killed and approximately 8,446 wounded since violence broken out in eastern Ukraine earlier this year, according to a UN report released on Friday.

On Saturday, Russia’s Federal Migration Service said that 880,000 Ukrainians have arrived and stayed in Russia since hostilities broke out in Ukraine.

Cover-up: Ukraine rebels destroying all links to MH17 air atrocity

An image of what is believed to be a Buk missile battery in Torez, Ukraine. Photograph: EMPR/Barcroft Media

UN demands full inquiry but armed Russian separatists block access to crash site amid confusion over black boxes

Russian separatist groups in eastern Ukraine are hastily covering up all links to the Buk missile battery suspected to have been used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, according to western-based defence and intelligence specialists.

As the UN security council called for a “full, thorough independent international investigation” into the downing of the plane, concern that a cover-up was under way was fuelled by a standoff at part of the crash site between observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and rebel gunmen, which ended with a warning shot being fired.

Other material on rebel social media sites was being deleted, including pictures showing the alleged capture of Buk missile vehicles by rebels from a Ukrainian air base last month.

The rebels say one boast was put up “by a sympathiser who mistakenly assumed it was a Ukrainian military plane that had been shot down. But, in a separate posting, a rebel leader also claimed that a plane had been brought down. “We warned you – do not fly in ‘our sky’,” he said. That too was removed.”

strelkov VKontakte page attributed girkin ukraine mh17

Postings on rebel websites immediately after the crash boasted of having shot down what they claimed was an Antonov Ukrainian military transport plane, but these have been deleted.

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, blamed a surface-to-air missile fired by rebels in eastern Ukraine and hinted that they might have had Russian technical help. The rebels are suspected of having used a Russian-built, vehicle-mounted Buk missile system to bring down MH17, killing all 298 passengers and crew. Power called for the crash site to be preserved. “All evidence must be undisturbed,” she said. “Russia needs to help make this happen.”

But hopes are not high. The OSCE was trying to gain access to one part of the large crash site but the commander of a rebel unit, known as Commander Glum, blocked them. After the warning shot, the OSCE convoy departed.

MH17 crash map

There is also confusion over the black boxes and other devices apparently salvaged from the plane. A rebel military commander initially said he was considering what to do with them, while another rebel leader, Aleksandr Borodai, contradicting his colleague, said the rebels had no black boxes or any other devices.

The Ukrainian interior ministry added to fears of a cover-up when it released video purportedly taken by police showing a truck carrying a Buk missile launcher with one of its four missiles apparently missing, rolling towards the Russian border at dawn . The video could not be independently verified.

Other material on rebel social media sites was being deleted, including pictures showing the alleged capture of Buk missile vehicles by rebels from a Ukrainian air base last month.

A still taken from a video made available by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, purportedly showing a truck carrying a Buk missile launcher.

Rebels said the boast on the social media site on Thursday that a plane had been shot down was not put up by them but by a sympathiser who mistakenly assumed it was a Ukrainian military plane that had been shot down. But in a separate posting a rebel leader also claimed that a plane had been brought down. “We warned you – do not fly in our sky,” he said. That too was removed.

A Nato intelligence specialist quoted by the military analysts Janes said the recordings “show that the Russian ‘helpers’ realise that they now have an international incident on their hands – and they probably also gave the order for separatists to erase all evidence – including those internet postings. It will be interesting to see if we ever find this Buk battery again or if someone now tries to dump it into a river.”

Video footage allegedly taken on Thursday appeared to support the idea that pro-Russia separatists had been to blame. It showed a Buk battery seemingly being moved in the rebel-held area between Snizhne and Torez close to the crash site. A still picture allegedly shows a missile in vertical launch mode beside a supermarket in Torez. However, the location has still to be established.

Separatists watch as OSCE monitors arrive at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Separatists watch OSCE monitors at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Photograph: Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

Ukrainian intelligence has published a tape said to be a recording between rebels and Russian intelligence in which they realise there has been a catastrophic blunder. One recording is said to be between a rebel commander, Igor Bezler, and a Russian intelligence officer in which he says: “We have just shot down a plane.” A second recording from an unidentified source puts the blame on Cossack militiamen.

Defence analysts with Russian expertise shared Power’s scepticism that Russia-backed rebel groups would have had the expertise to fire the missile and suggested it was more likely to have been Russian ground troops who specialise in air defence, seconded to help the rebels.

Cars drive past the remains of a destroyed pro-Russian separatist tank near a Ukrainian army checkpoint just outside the eastern Ukrainian town of Kramatorsk.
Cars drive past the remains of a destroyed pro-Russian separatist tank near a Ukrainian army checkpoint just outside the eastern Ukrainian town of Kramatorsk. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

At the Pentagon, officials said a motive for the operation had yet to be determined, as had the chain of command. One said it would be “surprising to us” if pro-Russia separatists were able to operate the Buk missile battery without Russian technical support. The Ukrainian military confirmed it has Buk batteries but said it had none in the area the missile was fired.

Nato had Awacs surveillance and command-and-control planes flying in the Baltics around the time of the crash, but Pentagon officials did not think the aircraft picked up indications of the disaster.

Bob Latiff, a former US weapons developer for the air force and the CIA and now a professor at Notre Dame University, said he leaned towards a belief that it was a case of mistaken identity on the part of those who pressed the button.

Denis Pushilin in front of a flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in Donetsk.
Denis Pushilin in front of a flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in Donetsk. Photograph: ITAR-TASS/Barcroft Media

“A radar return from an airplane like this would look very similar to that from a cargo plane, as was initially claimed by the separatists. If radar was all they were using, that is a shame,” he said. “All airliners emit identification signals which identify the aircraft and provide other information like altitude and speed. They also operate on known communications frequencies. It doesn’t sound like the separatists were using any of this.

“My guess is the system’s radar saw a return from a big ‘cargo’ plane flying at 30,000 feet or so and either automatically fired, or some aggressive, itchy operator fired, not wanting to miss an opportunity.”

Latiff said that if they had only one radar, as Ukrainian officials suggest, it would have been pointed at the target. A second, rotating one would normally have been part of a battery to pick up other planes in the immediate vicinity, but he said even that would not have established whether it was a commercial plane and there would normally have been communications equipment to pick up signals showing the plane was non-military.

OSCE monitors speak with a pro-Russian separatist at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.ukraine
OSCE monitors speak with a pro-Russian separatist at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.ukraine

Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military specialist at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said he regarded the tape recordings as genuine, as well as postings on social media pointing the finger at pro-Russian separatists or Russia itself.

But getting evidence would be very difficult. He said: “A decision has been made on the Russian side to hide their tracks. It will be hard to find the battery.” Satellites might have been able to catch something, but the trail from the missile would have been very short, Sutyagin said.