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The Morning Vertical, June 29, 2017


When Ukraine was hit with a massive cyberattack earlier this week, suspicion quickly fell on Russia.

And why not? Russia is widely believed to have been behind a series of attacks that hit Ukraine in recent years, most notably attacks on the country's energy grid in 2015 and 2016.

But when the attack spread to other countries, including Russia, and appeared to be a ransomware outbreak, it appeared that this time Moscow was not the culprit.

But now cybersecurity experts are beginning to take another look.

According to a piece in Wired (featured below) by Andy Greenberg, who has written extensively about cyberattacks in Ukraine, security experts (and not just in Ukraine) think the attack may have "originated as a state-sponsored, Ukraine-focused disruption campaign rather than a moneymaking venture."

There is still a lot we don't know and odds are that this was a ransomware attack aimed at making money. But the experts are not yet ruling Russia out as a culprit.

And due to Russia's recent history of cyberattacks in Ukraine and elsewhere, Moscow has put itself in a position where it is going to be a natural target of suspicion every time something like this happens.


Kremlin leaders believe the United States wants regime change in Russia, a worry that is feeding rising tensions between the two former Cold War foes, a U.S. defense intelligence report says.

Moscow is preparing measures to retaliate against Washington's decision to seize two Russian diplomatic compounds in the United States last year, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.

Ambassadors from the European Union's member states have officially extended the bloc's economic sanctions against Russia by another six months.

The FBI has questioned several U.S.-based employees of the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab as part of its investigation into the company's operations.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of making international "mischief."

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to extend a harvest-related cease-fire, saying it could help pave the way for a political solution.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says he assumes Vladimir Putin will meet U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the July 7-8 Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Former U.S. and European diplomats and other political experts are warning that Russian interference in European elections is continuing unabated and that both Washington and Brussels need to cooperate more closely on the issue.

The head of Russia’s telecommunications regulator says social-networking entrepreneur Pavel Durov's Telegram Messenger app has provided all the data required to be registered as an information distributor in Russia.

Russia's Federation Council has approved controversial legislation to demolish thousands of Soviet-era apartment buildings in Moscow.

Ukraine says a Security Service colonel was killed and three others injured when a car exploded in the Donetsk region on June 28.

A court in the Czech city of Ostrava has shut down the representative office of Russia-backed separatists from the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk because it was illegal, Ukraine's Ambassador to the Czech Republic Yevhen Perebyinis said.

A court in Kyiv is scheduled to hold a hearing in former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s treason case on June 29.

Four activists who were charged with preparing mass disturbances in Belarus have been released from custody by authorities in Minsk, a day after three others facing similar charges were freed.


In my latest Power Vertical blog post, We're All Russia's Neighbors Now, I argue that it is a good idea to pay close attention to what Moscow does in it's so-called "near abroad," because it often foreshadows things Moscow will later try out farther to the West.


The Cyber-Battlefield

NPR interviews Wired's Andy Greenberg about his recent widely circulated article (featured earlier this week in The Morning Vertical) about how Ukraine is a testing ground for Russia's cyberattacks on the West.

Greenberg has a new piece in Wired on lingering suspicions in Ukraine and among cyberexperts about a Russian hand in this week's ransomware attack.

The Christian Science Monitor has a piece about how Russia uses cybercriminals as proxies.

Russia's Army Of Bots

According to a new study by the Computational Propaganda Research Project, which is housed at the Oxford Internet Institute, approximately 45 percent of the Twitter accounts tweeting regularly about Russia in 2014-15 were bots.

Andrew Roth has a write-up of the study in The Washington Post.

Finland's Hybrid Defenses

Katri Pynnöniemi of the University of Helsinki and the National Defense University and Sinikukka Saari of Finland's Foreign Ministry have a piece in NATO Review on how Finland has countered hybrid warfare.

Revolution Interrupted

Andrew Foxall and LIncoln PIgman have an essay in Foreign Affairs on Ukraine's Stalled Revolution.

Moscow's New Man In Washington

In The Daily Beast, Anna Nemtsova takes a look at Anatoly Antonov, who will be Russia's new ambassador to the United States.

Germany In The (Kremlin's) Crosshairs

The Brookings Institution's Constanze Stelzenmuller testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the Russian interference on the upcoming German federal elections. The full transcript of the testimony is available on the Brookings Institution's website.

NOTE TO READERS: The Morning Vertical, The Daily Vertical, and all Power Vertical products will not appear from June 30-July 7 as I will be traveling to Riga, Latvia for a series of speaking engagements.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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