President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has set a goal to bring all relations between a citizen and the government to a digital dimension, in particular to hold online voting during presidential, parliamentary and local elections. “In general, our goal is to make sure that all relations with the state can be carried out with the help of a regular smartphone and the Internet. In particular, voting. This is our dream and we will make it real at presidential, parliamentary or local elections. It is a challenge. Ambitious yet achievable,” he said during the presentation of the Diia mobile application in Kyiv on Thursday. Zelensky also said that The State in a Smartphone project changes the attitude of the government to a citizen and saves citizens’ time, money and nervous system.
Ukraine: Interior Ministry asks FBI to help probe suspected Russian hack of Burisma | Ilya Zhegulev/Reuters
Authorites in Ukraine have asked the top law enforcement agency of the United States for help investigating the suspected cyberattack by Russian military hackers on Burisma Holdings, an energy company caught up in the impeachment of US President Donald Trump. The Ukrainian interior ministry on Thursday also announced an investigation into the possible illegal surveillance of the then American ambassador to Kyiv, Marie Yovanovitch, following the release of messages this week by the US Congress as part of the impeachment case. Burisma was at the center of attempts by Trump last July to persuade Ukraine to announce an investigation into Hunter Biden, who is the son of Democratic US presidential contender Joe Biden and used to have a seat on the Ukrainian company’s board.
The team of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is working on a project that will allow Ukrainians to vote online during elections. “We have already ‘The Vote’ project,” Zelensky’s advisor Mykhailo Fedorov said in an interview to Liga.net. According to him, at the first stage, the platform will be used for surveys, thanks to which the president, prime minister and others will learn the real opinion of the population. The identification system in this project is implemented through Mobile ID, electronic signature, BankID. Fedorov assures Ukrainians will be able to vote online in elections in 2024.
Ukraine: Poorly regulated and rich in reach: online technologies in Ukraine’s elections | Tetyana Bohdanova/Global Voices
On Sunday July 21, Ukrainian voters went to the polls to vote in a snap parliamentary election, called after President Volodymyr Zelensky, elected in March 2019, announced a controversial decision to dissolve the parliament during his inauguration. Online misinformation, cyber-attacks, and the overall threat of external interference in the election were not last minute concerns; these issues were raised several months before the election. Ultimately, the election passed without major disruptions; Zelensky’s Servant of the People party took a majority of seats in parliament. So while some of these concerns turned out to be unjustified, the role of the internet in Sunday’s elections was more important than ever; according to 2019 data from the country’s State Statistical Service, 26 million Ukrainians are online and at least half that number actively use social networks. Ukrainian social media users have always actively discussed political topics online; the 2014 Euromaidan protests were famously sparked by a single Facebook post. This year, which also included a presidential election in March, was no exception. According to analysis by Internews Ukraine and data analytics company Singularex, Sunday’s elections provoked a tsunami of activity on social networks, with election-related posts surging immediately after the announcement of the parliament’s dissolution.
Ukraine: Monitors declare election fair but with campaign violations | Igor Kossov, Teah Pelechaty and Bermet Talant/KyivPost
Ukrainian and international election observers have announced that the July 21 parliamentary election was held in a fair and competitive manner. “No systemic violations that could affect the vote result or the counting process were recorded,” said Olga Aivazovska, head of Ukrainian election watchdog Opora, at a press briefing on July 22, adding that there were many procedural violations, however. “Being able to conduct three elections in a four-month period, and at the same time engage in the defense of a country against a foreign aggressor that has invaded Ukraine, is an extraordinary feat,” said Stephen Nix, Eurasia Director at the International Republican Institute. According to a preliminary count, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party, Servant of the People, won the party vote and the majority of single-member districts. It is followed by Opposition Platform — For Life, former President Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna, and rock musician Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s Voice. This results were largely confirmed by Opora’s parallel vote count. The official count continues.
You may not have been aware there was a presidential election in Ukraine last Sunday, but all eyes in the cybersecurity and intelligence communities were keenly focused on this event. In the past few years, cyberattacks targeting elections in democratic countries, including the U.S., have become increasingly disruptive. And in the past few months, international observers have seen disinformation campaigns attempting to influence the outcome of the Ukraine election. Leading up to the election, the IBM X-Force Incident Response and Intelligence Services (IRIS) team had been preparing to observe and analyze possible attempts of foreign interference in the election. Although it appears that a major cyber disaster was averted, we were ready for the worst. After the cascading damage of the NotPetya attack in 2017 — which originally targeted Ukraine before hitting organizations and users in dozens of countries, at an estimated cost of up to $10 billion, according to Wired — we recognize that the risk of a major cyberattack on Ukraine could be the bleed-over to the rest of the world. IBM Security has many clients, including some of the largest financial and logistics companies, that need to be resilient in an attack or face potential damages in the millions or hundreds of millions of dollars. We needed to prepare a response to go at a moment’s notice.
Ukraine: Hacked Emails Appear to Reveal Russia Is Backing Comedian Likely to Be Ukraine’s Next President | Newsweek
Comedian and actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a political novice, has upended Ukraine’s presidential race over the past several months by promising young voters a break from a past riddled with corruption and leaders beholden to powerful oligarchs. But now, a tranche of hacked emails suggest that Zelenskiy may have a powerful patron of his own: the Kremlin. On Tuesday, Ukraine’s security services revealed that they are investigating whether Zelenskiy’s campaign received financing from members of the Russian security service who are supporting the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a self-proclaimed, pro-Russian separatist proto-state in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The claims first surfaced after a Ukrainian hacking group associated with the non-profit Myrotvorets Center released a set of hacked emails showing that a Russian security official with links to the DPR’s leadership had attempted to exchange cryptocurrency for cash to send to Zelenskiy’s presidential campaign. In one of the emails, a member of the Russian security services notes that they “have approved the budget for the actions of the comedian.” The emails also appear to show that some of the financing came from Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov and Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, both of whom allegedly help dictate the Kremlin’s policies towards Ukraine.
“Everything,” Dmytro Zolotukhin tells me, “is going like they wanted.” Slumped in a chair in a café here in the Ukrainian capital, Zolotukhin wasn’t talking about the campaign of Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian who is favored to win the country’s presidential elections this weekend, or the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko. No, they are the Russians. Moscow has used Ukraine as a disinformation laboratory for years—and Zolotukhin is one of the men charged with fending them off. The Kremlin stands accused of interfering in elections the world over, driving division in societies through an array of tactics, chief among them online disinformation. Using fabricated or misleading news stories and fake accounts, Russian operations have sought to sow doubt in the democratic process. Ahead of European Parliament elections next month and the American presidential contest in 2020, Putin’s online armies are auditioning their tactics in Ukraine. Kyiv isn’t just the laboratory for Russia’s information warfare tactics, though; it’s also a proving ground for possible solutions, where officials such as Zolotukhin, Ukraine’s deputy minister of information policy, struggle to walk the line between defending democratic discourse and trampling freedom of speech. As the United States prepares for another contentious presidential race and social-media regulation looks inevitable, the Ukrainian government’s efforts highlight how difficult it is to fight disinformation in a polarized information environment. But offices such as Zolotukhin’s are often under-resourced, and in a divisive electoral period in which campaigns are themselves combatants in the information war, separating fact from fiction, patriot from enemy, and friend from foe is not as simple as it once was.
Exit polls from the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election, released late on March 31, seem to confirm what has long been believed: that no openly pro-Russian candidate has a chance to secure this Ukrainian presidency. But it doesn’t seem that will stop the Kremlin from having its voice heard, or from trying to have some of its strategic objectives secured, observers note. On April 1, as ballots were still being tallied, the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and Russia officially, although quietly, expired. Previously renewed automatically each decade, Ukrainian lawmakers approved the treaty’s termination on Dec. 6, 2018, after roughly four years of undeclared war between the two nations. Also on April 1, as the likely outcome of the Ukrainian presidential election started to become more clear, elected Russian lawmakers prepared a statement of “non-recognition” of the result. The move is yet another signal that Moscow is committed to discrediting the election and not accepting its outcome.
The Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine (SZRU) has released a report on the features of Russia’s approaches to affecting the course and results of Ukraine elections. Russia’s main action plan on Ukraine in the short and medium term envisages further provoking extensive destabilization to facilitate the revenge of pro-Russian forces following the 2019 election, the Information Resistance OSINT Group wrote citing the SZRU report published on its website Wednesday, March 27. This will include systemic and versatile measures for influencing the course of the election process and the vote count during the presidential and parliamentary elections, the report says. In this context, the main areas where Russia is most likely to intensify its efforts is destabilization, including on the contact line in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, incitement of military-political confrontation with elements of economic influence; propaganda campaigns in the Ukrainian media and using instruments for cyber interference; measures to provide electoral support to individual candidates; and discrediting the electoral process in the international media space and through Kremlin’s positions in international organizations, as well as Western political and expert circles.
Ukraine: With elections just days away, Ukraine faces disinformation, cyber attacks and further Russian interference | Global Voices
Ukrainians will head for the polls on Sunday 31 March in what will be the first regular national elections since the country’s 2014 Euromaidan revolution. With its Crimean peninsula still occupied by Russian forces, an ongoing military conflict in eastern Ukraine, and rising activity of far-right groups, the country is a prime target for both domestic and external information influence operations. Ukraine has been in the crossfire of disinformation warfare since 2014, with multiple political actors attempting to disrupt its democratic development. The elections for both the office of the president and parliamentary seats will be a crucial test for Ukraine’s democracy and stability. Much of the action has taken place on Facebook, which is the country’s most popular social network. Despite persistent efforts of civil society and media groups, Facebook has done relatively little to respond to Ukraine’s disinformation problem in the past. But the company changed its tune in January, when it publicly announced that it had taken steps to counter some of these issues.
At the headquarters of Ukraine’s SBU more than a dozen local and Western security experts watch a simulated foreign cyber attack on several big screens ahead of this month’s presidential vote. During the joint EU-Ukraine cyber security drills the Westerners pretend to be hackers attacking the country’s central election commission, while the Ukrainians seek to neutralise them. The exercises held in Kiev last week involved around a hundred experts and were part of efforts to prevent arch-foe Russia from interfering in the crucial March 31 election. Ukrainian security officials said they had registered a growing number of distributed denial-of-service attacks and phishing attempts to gain access to computers of the country’s ministries and other state structures in recent months.
Russian hackers are redoubling their efforts in the run-up to presidential elections in Ukraine, according to the head of Ukraine’s cyber-police. Serhii Demediuk said in an interview with The Associated Press that Russian-controlled digital saboteurs are stepping up attacks on the Central Elections Commission and its employees, trying to penetrate electronic systems in order to manipulate information about the March 31 election. “On the eve of the election and during the counting of votes there will be cyberattacks on certain objects of critical infrastructure. This applies to the work of the polling stations themselves, districts, and the CEC,” he said. “From what we are seeing, it will be manipulation aimed at distorting information about the results of elections, and calling the elections null or void,” Demediuk said.
Ukraine looks to have faced down both the Kremlin and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe over the issue of Russian election observers at its presidential election in March. The OSCE was forced to change stance after Ukraine adamantly refused to accept Russian observers of the March 31 vote, and its parliament on Feb. 7 passed a law banning them from being accredited to the OSCE mission. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced a day later that Russia had decided not to send its observers to Ukraine. And the OSCE, while expressing regret over the Ukrainian authorities’ position, also backed down.
Ukraine’s parliament has barred Russian citizens from serving as election monitors during an upcoming presidential election. The Supreme Rada voted to exclude Russians from international observers’ missions that will be monitoring the voting in Ukraine next month. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe submitted a list of candidates for the Ukrainian monitoring missing and it included two Russians. The organization’s observers are considered one of the most credible voices on elections in the region.
Ukraine’s exiled former president, who was found guilty of fueling a deadly separatist conflict in the east, on Wednesday claimed there could be possible vote rigging in the country’s upcoming presidential election. Ukrainians will vote March 31 to elect a new president. Former President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014 following months of anti-government protests. Weeks later, Russia used his appeal to send troops to Ukraine as a justification for annexing the Crimean peninsula. Yanukovych, 68, spoke to the press Wednesday in Moscow, breaking more than a year of silence. He would not endorse any of the over 30 Ukrainian presidential candidates but accused President Petro Poroshenko of plotting vote rigging. He offered no proof for his claims.
Hackers likely controlled by Russia are stepping up efforts to disrupt Ukraine’s presidential election in March with cyber attacks on electoral servers and personal computers of election staff, the head of Ukraine’s cyber police said on Friday. Serhiy Demedyuk told Reuters the attackers were using virus-infected greeting cards, shopping invitations, offers for software updates and other malicious “phishing” material intended to steal passwords and personal information. Ten weeks before the elections, hackers were also buying personal details of election officials, Demedyuk said, paying in cryptocurrency on the dark web, part of the internet accessible only through certain software and typically used anonymously.
Ukraine: Russian meddling in Ukraine’s presidential election will be ‘colossal,’ interior minister says | Kyiv Post
Russia will likely use propaganda in an enormous attempt to interfere in Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election, the country’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said in a Dec. 29 interview with Kyiv-based news agency Interfax-Ukraine. “Ukraine actually has a common information field with Russia, and the (Russian) intervention will be colossal,” Avakov said. The minister added that Russia won’t interfere physically, but will certainly intensify its propaganda activity in Ukraine to achieve its goals. “They are already trying to show maximal activity in propaganda and then to see if we will ‘break our heads’ ourselves,” Avakov said. But Ukrainians should resist propaganda. “We, as a mature democratic society, should show wisdom and not give them that pleasure,” Avakov said.
Over the last few years, the world has witnessed Russia’s interference in the internal affairs of foreign countries: from meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, to the military occupation of Ukrainian territories. In its subversive operations the Kremlin hacked into servers, subjected infrastructure and organizations to cyberattacks, and deployed legions of internet trolls on social media to spread lies and disinformation. In response to Kremlin threat, an international rapid-response team will monitor and expose any attempts by Russia to interfere in the upcoming Ukrainian presidential elections in 2019. The team is comprised of experts from the Atlantic Council, a U.S. think tank, the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity, the Razumkov Center, a Ukrainian think tank, and Stop Fake, a multilingual volunteer project for debunking Russian propaganda.
Kiev has condemned elections in Russian-backed separatist controlled areas of eastern Ukraine as illegitimate and unlawful. Residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”, which broke away from Ukraine in a bloody conflict with the pro-Western government in 2014, voted for new leaders of the regions on Sunday. Alexander Zakharcheno, the previous “prime minister” of the Donetsk People’s Republic, was assassinated in a bombing in the city August. Kremlin-annointed candidates are almost guaranteed to win the polls after potential rivals were prevented from running. “The current attempt by Russia to justify, organize and then legitimize a fake ‘voting’ process in the occupied Donbas represents a flagrant violation of norms and principles of international law and Ukrainian legislation and constitutes a blatant breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.
Residents of the eastern Ukraine regions controlled by Russia-backed separatist rebels voted Sunday for local governments in elections denounced by Kiev and the West. The elections were to choose heads of government and legislature members in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, where separatists have fought Ukrainian forces since the spring of 2014 in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people. Although a 2015 accord on ending the war calls for local elections in Donetsk and Luhansk, critics including Ukraine’s president, the U.S. and the European Union say the vote is illegitimate because it is conducted where Ukraine has no control. But the separatists say the vote is a key step toward establishing full-fledged democracy in the regions.
The parliament renewed Ukraine’s highest election body, the Central Election Commission, ahead of the crucial 2019 general elections. On September 20, the parliament replaced all 13 CEC members who were serving on expired terms. In a swift decision—too swift in the opinion of the opposition—the Rada expanded the membership of the CEC from 15 to 17. Parliament appointed fourteen presidential nominees, two members were carried over from the old CEC, and one seat was left vacant. Rada Speaker Andriy Parubiy and BPP representative Iryna Lutsenko both promised that a nominee from the Opposition Bloc will soon join. Thus, all parliamentary factions will be represented on the renewed CEC. This move can’t come soon enough. The country will hold its presidential election in March and parliamentary polls in October.
Ukraine has set up a group to stop any attempt by Russia to influence next year’s elections, a state security body said on Thursday. The National Council for Security and Defence, which is headed by President Petro Poroshenko, established the special group ahead of presidential elections in March and parliamentary elections next October. Relations between Kiev and Moscow collapsed following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine that Moscow backed.
Ukraine: Russia, Ukrainian law-enforcement agencies will attempt to influence upcoming Ukrainian elections | InterFax
Russia will try to influence the presidential election campaign in Ukraine through social networks, cyber attacks and sabotage technologies. So will Ukraine’s law enforcement agencies, political analysts have said. “The participation of the so-called “siloviki” (power ministries) is not yet traced, but the fact they will participate in the election campaign is understandable,” political analyst Volodymyr Tsybulko said at a press conference in Kyiv on Wednesday. “The National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) is working on criminal cases against some candidates. Ukraine’s National Corruption Prevention Center (NACP) is also actively working, and there are criminal cases at Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO). There is a figure such as [ex-MP from Batkivschyna Party faction] Shepelev, who gives evidence. Sooner or later these investigations can affect the behavior of candidates and even the fate of certain candidates,” he said.
The United States has joined the European Union in condemning plans by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to hold “elections,” calling them “phony procedures” that undermine peace efforts in the region. “The United States condemns the announcement of a plan to conduct ‘elections’ in the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics,'” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on September 12. “Given the continued control of these territories by the Russian Federation, genuine elections are inconceivable, and grossly contravene Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements,” she added, referring to September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict. She said that by “engineering phony procedures,” Moscow was exhibiting “its disregard for international norms and is undermining efforts to achieve peace in eastern Ukraine.”
At a glance, Valeriy Striganov seems like an unremarkable Ukrainian civil servant. But he has a monumental mission: as head of the Central Election Commission’s (CEC) IT Department, Striganov is tasked with protecting the upcoming March 2019 presidential elections from a cyber attack. “We find malware every day,” Striganov said with a laugh, peering out from behind a Republic of Gamers-branded laptop that he bought for his job. The question for Ukraine’s cyber security professionals is not so much whether an attack on the election will take place — that is almost completely assured. Rather, it’s how such an offensive will take place.
On June 15, Yulia Tymoshenko launched the start of Ukraine’s presidential election season with a two-and-half hour speech in Kyiv, Ukraine. With twenty-nine percent of voters telling pollsters they haven’t made their minds up for the race slated for March 31, the field is wide open. But it’s not too soon to start worrying about the many ways in which the Kremlin may meddle in the election. The first way to meddle is easy: support pro-Russian candidates. Polls show that in spite of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian candidates still enjoy strong approval ratings. Among them are Yuriy Boyko, former vice prime minister and an MP with support at 9.7%, and Vadim Rabinovich, leader of the “For Life” party at 9.5%. Both have over twenty years in politics and their records strongly support the Kremlin.
Ukraine accused the Russian security services Saturday of planning and launching a cyberattack that locked up computers around the world earlier this week. The Ukrainian security agency, known as the SBU, alleged in a statement that similarities between the malicious software and previous attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure revealed the work of Russian intelligence services. The SBU added that the attackers appeared uninterested in making a profit from the ransomware program and were more focused on sowing chaos in Ukraine. There was no immediate official response from Russia’s government, but Russian lawmaker Igor Morozov told the RIA Novosti news agency that the Ukrainian charges were “fiction” and that the attacks were likely the work of the United States.
Defying peace agreements reached in the Minsk, Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine started on Oct. 2 holding“primaries” for local elections in the areas where they have seized control from the Ukrainian government. A final vote for seats on local councils in the areas of Donbas controlled by the separatists is scheduled for Nov. 6. Kyiv views the elections as illegal, as the Ukrainian parliament has yet to adopt separate legislation for them, as required under the Minsk peace agreement. Ukraine has consistently resisted attempts by Russia to short-circuit the Minsk agreements by holding local elections in the occupied territories – a step towards reintegrating them with the rest of Ukraine – before it has removed its servicemen and weapons from eastern Ukraine.
Pilot Nadiya Savchenko on Friday called for early parliamentary elections to “infuse fresh blood” into Ukraine’s politics, a call that could send shock waves across the volatile nation. Savchenko, 35, who has become a national icon in Ukraine after spending two years in a Russian prison, told The Associated Press that the “Ukrainian people deserve a better government that they now have.” She said that the Ukrainian government has failed public expectations raised by the ouster of the country’s former Moscow-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was driven from power in February 2014 after months of massive street protests on Kiev’s main square, the Maidan.