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Ukraine war: Anonymous collective take down THREE Russian news agency websites after attacking RT


An international hacking organisation has launched an all-out ‘cyberwar’ on Vladimir Putin’s media, social media sites and Kremlin-backed broadcaster in a bid to thwart the despot’s propaganda against Ukraine and the West.

Anonymous have apparently targeted three Russian state news agencies and urged Russia to ‘stop this madness’ after attacking Kremlin-backed channel RT and the Kremlin website.

When trying to access TASS, Fontanka, and Kommersant’s websites on Monday morning, error messages appeared and the websites were unable to load.

The latest move comes after the elusive computer hackers declared a ‘cyber war’ against Vladimir Putin‘s government on Thursday after he mounted a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

And on Saturday, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said the country was creating an ‘IT army’ to ‘fight on the cyber front’ amid a string of tit-for-tat cyberattacks.

Moscow has been accused of producing Hollywood-style ‘fake news’ videos to inflame tensions with Ukraine.

Misinformation about the conflict includes the notion that Ukrainian soldiers are ‘radical nationalists’ who are defending a genocide against Russians.

When MailOnline tried to access Fontanka, a news outlet based in St Petersburg, on Monday morning, a message signed by Anonymous urged citizens to ‘stop this madness’ and said Vladimir Putin has ‘put us in danger’.

When trying to access Fontanka, a message reads: 'Dear citizens. We urge you to stop this madness, do not send your sons and husbands to certain death'

When trying to access Fontanka, a message reads: ‘Dear citizens. We urge you to stop this madness, do not send your sons and husbands to certain death’

When MailOnline attempted to access cwebsite on Monday morning, a message appeared saying 'the site can't be reached'

When MailOnline attempted to access Kommersant’s website on Monday morning, a message appeared saying ‘the site can’t be reached’ 

The message, which replaced the website’s normal homepage, claimed they will be ‘fired’ or ‘jailed’ for their actions but added that they ‘can’t take it anymore’.

It reads: ‘Dear citizens. We urge you to stop this madness, do not send your sons and husbands to certain death. Putin makes us lie and puts us in danger. 

‘We were isolated from the whole world, they stopped buying oil and gas. In a few years we will live like in North Korea. 

‘What is it for us? To put Putin in the textbooks? This is not our war, let’s stop it!

‘This message will be deleted, and some of us will be fired or even jailed. But we can’t take it anymore.

‘Indifferent journalists of Russia.’ 

It bore the mark of Anonymous, the activist collective known for cyber attacks against some governments and corporations. 

Likewise, when MailOnline attempted to access daily newspaper Kommersant’s website on Monday morning, a message appeared saying ‘the site can’t be reached’.

A similar message appeared on news agency TASS’s website, which said ‘an error occurred’. 

A similar error message appeared when trying to access TASS's website on Monday morning

A similar error message appeared when trying to access TASS’s website on Monday morning 

It comes after Anonymous declared 'cyber war' against Vladimir Putin's (pictured) government after he mounted a full-scale invasion of Ukraine

It comes after Anonymous declared ‘cyber war’ against Vladimir Putin’s (pictured) government after he mounted a full-scale invasion of Ukraine 

It added: ‘Sorry the page you are looking for is currently unavailable. Please try again later.’

Some Russian news websites have been criticised for being part of a media offensive from the Kremlin in which Ukraine’s fighters are painted as Nazis and Russia is viewed as a liberating force.

Some Russian reporters have also insisted the Russian military is not targeting civilians, despite images of bloodied Ukrainians and bombed-out tower blocks.

Describing Ukrainian fighters as ‘Nazis’, Russian state TV talk show host Olga Skabeyeva said: ‘You know, as they retreat, the Ukrainian Nazis continue to destroy Donbas.

‘Today Zhelobok was shelled with Grad multiple rocket launchers. Yesterday the Ukrainian Armed Forces launched Tochka ballistic missiles at an oil facility.’

Criticised stories included TASS headlines, which claimed Russian troops were ‘welcomed with flags in Ukraine’s Melitopol’ and that Ukrainian forces have ‘actively resorted to sabotage’.

The propaganda has led many Russians to be convinced that the conflict was provoked by the West.

Amid the misinformation, Anonymous announced on Twitter on Thursday evening that it was declaring a ‘cyber war’ against Vladimir Putin’s government.

They said shortly before 10pm: ‘The Anonymous collective is officially in cyber war against the Russian government.’ 

Some Russian websites have been criticised for being part of a media offensive from the Kremlin in which Ukraine's fighters are painted as Nazis and Russia is viewed as a liberating force

Some Russian websites have been criticised for being part of a media offensive from the Kremlin in which Ukraine’s fighters are painted as Nazis and Russia is viewed as a liberating force

Around 30 minutes later, they announced that they had taken down the website of the Kremlin-backed TV channel RT, which broadcasts in Britain and has been heavily criticised for its coverage.

When MailOnline attempted to access the RT site on Friday morning, it was still inaccessible and only displayed an error message that said ‘this site can’t be reached’.

On Monday, the website appeared to be back up and running. 

The cyber war declaration raised the prospect that Russia could be subjected to more systematic hacking attempts. 

THE ELUSIVE HACKING GROUP ANONYMOUS 

Hacker group Anonymous has been linked to online attacks around the world aimed at punishing governments for policies of which the hackers disapprove.

Members are known as ‘Anons’ and are distinguished by their Guy Fawkes masks.

The group are seen as anything from digital Robin Hoods to cyber terrorists for their hacking campaigns against government agencies, child pornography sites and the Klu Klux Klan. 

In 2008 the online community staged a series of protests, pranks, and hacks Church of Scientology as part if its ‘Project Chanology.’

Later targets of Anonymous ‘hacktivism’ included government agencies of the US, Israel, Tunisia, Uganda, and others, copyright protection agencies; the Westboro Baptist Church; and corporations such as PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and Sony. 

In 2013 they declared war on secretive ‘chat sites’ used by paedophiles to trade images.

Last November they hacked into the Twitter account of the Ku Klux Klan after the white supremacist group distributed flyers threatening ‘lethal force’  protesters in Ferguson.

Dozens of people have been arrested for involvement in Anonymous cyberattacks, in countries including the US, UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Turkey. 

Over the weekend, Russian government websites including the official Kremlin and media regulator pages were down, in what was predicted to be the first round of tit-for-tat cyberattacks.

Ukraine’s telecoms agency also announced that Russian TV channels had been hacked to broadcast Ukrainian songs, the Kyiv Independent reported on Saturday afternoon.

It came after Kyiv was hit by a ‘massive’ cyberattack targeting its government and banks just hours before Russia’s tyrant launched his aggressive war to ‘demilitarise’ and ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine.

The websites of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Security Service, and Cabinet of Ministers were all out of action Wednesday afternoon.

Bomb threats were also phoned in to several government buildings, thought to be part of a psychological pressure campaign by Moscow.

On Saturday, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said the country was creating an ‘IT army’ to ‘fight on the cyber front’ amid tit-for-tat cyberattacks.

‘We are creating an IT army. We need digital talents,’ he tweeted. 

‘There will be tasks for everyone. We continue to fight on the cyber front. The first task is on the channel for cyber specialists.’

The Russian president’s war appears not to be going to plan due to Kremlin ‘overconfidence’, poor tactical planning, and ‘shock’ at the fierce resistance put up by brave Ukrainians fighting for national survival, intelligence sources have claimed. 

People on social media responded positively to Anonymous’s cyber war declaration against Putin.  

One person wrote: ‘THANK YOU! Now, work on draining their finances.’

Another said: ‘You are awesome, thanks.’

A third wrote: ‘THANK YOU! I love you! The most beautiful thing EVER…’

Anonymous said in their tweet about RT: ‘The #Anonymous collective has taken down the website of the #Russian propaganda station RT News.’ 

Anonymous have previously targeted groups including the Ku Klux Klan and Islamic extremists. 

Members are known as ‘Anons’ and are distinguished by their Guy Fawkes masks.

In July last year, the collective warned Tesla founder Elon Musk that they planned to target him after saying he wields too much power over the cryptocurrency markets. 

On Thursday evening, Anonymous said shortly before 10pm: 'The Anonymous collective is officially in cyber war against the Russian government'

On Thursday evening, Anonymous said shortly before 10pm: ‘The Anonymous collective is officially in cyber war against the Russian government’

The elusive computer experts issued the stark announcement on their Twitter account on Thursday evening

The elusive computer experts issued the stark announcement on their Twitter account on Thursday evening

The group also announced that they had taken down the website of the Kremlin-backed TV channel RT, which broadcasts in Britain and has been heavily criticised for its coverage

The group also announced that they had taken down the website of the Kremlin-backed TV channel RT, which broadcasts in Britain and has been heavily criticised for its coverage

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow was last week accused of producing Hollywood-style ‘fake news’ videos to inflame tensions with Ukraine.

News bulletins in Russia were full of reports of shelling and other apparent provocations by Ukraine that were unverified or denied by the West and Kiev.

One video, released by the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, appeared to show a man pretending his leg had been blown off by a Ukrainian artillery strike. 

It was mocked online as it showed the man’s left leg, supposedly blown off under the knee, was already a prosthetic with the lower half detached. The video was later removed from social media.

Another clip from Russian state TV station Rossiya 1 showed a senior war correspondent in Donetsk claiming the city was coming under fire from Ukrainian shelling and that a Ukrainian invasion was imminent.

The West has long warned that Vladimir Putin would invent ‘false flag’ incidents giving him an excuse to invade Ukraine.  

Moscow claimed on February 20 that it had killed five Ukrainian ‘saboteurs’ who allegedly crossed the border to stage an attack.

It also said a Ukrainian shell had destroyed a border facility used by Russia’s Federal Security Service in the Rostov region on the frontier between the two countries.

But experts said digital locators embedded in online videos about the supposed incidents showed both had been filmed in the same area, despite Russian claims that they took place far apart.

When MailOnline attempted to access the RT site this morning, it was still inaccessible and only displayed an error message that said 'this site can't be reached'

When MailOnline attempted to access the RT site this morning, it was still inaccessible and only displayed an error message that said ‘this site can’t be reached’

Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics told Bloomberg: ‘It’s all made up like a Hollywood movie.’ 

And Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba took to social media to deny Moscow’s claims, writing: ‘Russia, stop your fake-producing factory now.’

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said there had been a ‘proliferation of false flag operations, propaganda stunts and Russian news outlets carrying fictitious allegations’.

Social media experts have debunked several videos put out by Moscow by analysing embedded data. 

For example, footage of a car allegedly loaded with explosives to attack Ukrainians fleeing to Russia had data showing it had been filmed in 2019. 

Ukraine has even accused Russia of taking corpses from morgues to use in incidents of fake attacks blamed on Kiev. 

Another video, released by the People’s Militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic on February 18, claimed ‘Polish saboteurs’ were planning to blow up a tank. 

However, Eliot Higgins, the founder of the investigative website Bellingcat, discovered the audio matched another video uploaded to YouTube in 2010. 

Christo Grozev, Bellingcat’s executive director, tweeted: ‘If you’re wondering if [the] Kremlin’s poorly executed war propaganda works on its domestic audience: sadly, it does.

‘Have been talking to young people from Russia’s countryside. They are convinced Ukraine is shelling.’ 

Referring to the video of the man pretending his leg had been blown off, analyst Oliver Alexander said: ‘The propaganda is reaching crazy levels.’

Meanwhile, Meta has banned Russian state media from running ads or monetising content on Facebook as Vladimir Putin launches a sweeping crackdown on internal dissent over Russia’s unpopular and illegal aggressive war with Ukraine.

The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday UKRAINE REFUGEE APPEAL

Readers of Mail Newspapers have always shown immense generosity at times of crisis.

Calling upon that human spirit, we are now launching an appeal to raise money for refugees from Ukraine.

For, surely, no one can fail to be moved by the heartbreaking images and stories of families – mostly women, children, the infirm and elderly – fleeing from Russia’s invading armed forces.

As this tally of misery increases over the coming days and months, these innocent victims of a tyrant will require accommodation, schools and medical support.

All donations to the Mail Ukraine Appeal will be distributed to charities and aid organisations providing such essential services.

In the name of charity and compassion, we urge all our readers to give swiftly and generously.

TO MAKE A DONATION ONLINE

Via bank transfer, please use these details:

Account name: Associated Newspapers

Account number: 20769512

Sort code: 50-00-00

TO MAKE A DONATION VIA CHEQUE

Make your cheque payable to ‘Mail Newspapers – Ukraine Appeal’

and post it to: Mail Newspapers Ukraine Appeal, GFM, 42 Phoenix Court, Hawkins Road, Colchester, Essex CO2 8JY

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, announced the ban on Twitter last week, writing: ‘We are now prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on our platform anywhere in the world.

‘We also continue to apply labels to additional Russian state media. These changes have already begun rolling out and will continue into the weekend’.

Putin on Friday ordered a ‘partial’ block on Facebook, with Kremlin officials claiming it was a response to the tech giant’s ‘censorship’ of its state media.  

Russia’s tyrant is now frantically repressing domestic criticism of the war in Ukraine, with the media watchdog on Saturday ordering media to remove reports describing the Kremlin’s attack as an ‘assault, invasion or declaration of war’, or face being blocked and fined.

In a statement, Roskomnadzor accused several independent media outlets including television channel Dozhd and the country’s top independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta of spreading ‘unreliable socially significant untrue information’ about the shelling of Ukrainian cities by the Russian army and civilian deaths.

Citing a request from the General Prosecutor’s Office, the communications regulator said the media outlets that also include Echo of Moscow radio will be blocked unless they remove the ‘unreliable information’.

‘Roskomnadzor also launched an administrative investigation into the dissemination of unreliable publicly significant information by the above-mentioned media,’ the watchdog said. The offence is punishable by a fine of up to 5 million rubles ($60,000), it said.

The Russian media regulator also said that ‘reliable information’ could be found in ‘official Russian information outlets’.

Moscow has not so far provided any details of Russian losses in the fighting in the face of statements from Kyiv that they have inflicted heavy casualties on Moscow’s forces. 

It came after the cyber security team at Meta – parent of Facebook and Instagram – blocked a set of pro-Russian fake accounts and hacked social media profiles that were part of a scheme to undermine Ukraine, the tech giant said on Sunday.

The accounts were conducting a campaign of misinformation, pushing content supporting Russian activities and painting Ukraine as a pawn of the West, according to a Meta statement.

‘They ran websites posing as independent news entities and created fake personas across social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and also Odnoklassniki and VK (Russian social media networks),’ Meta said in a blog post.

In some cases, ‘they used profile pictures that we believe were likely generated using artificial intelligence techniques’. 

The small network of Facebook and Instagram accounts targeted people in Ukraine, using posts to try to get people to visit websites featuring bogus news about the country’s effort to defend itself from the invasion by Russia.

Amid Russia’s campaign of propaganda, Ursula von der Leyen said trust in Putin is ‘completely broken and eroded’, as Brussels unveiled a new package of sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The bloc banned Kremlin propaganda outlets Russia Today and Sputnik and closed off its airspace to all Russian planes – which later saw Russian carrier Aeroflot suspend all flights to Europe.  

Meta has banned Russian state media from running ads or monetising content on Facebook

Meta has banned Russian state media from running ads or monetising content on Facebook 

Amid the campaign of propaganda, Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) said trust in Putin is 'broken and eroded', as the bloc banned Kremlin propaganda outlets Russia Today and Sputnik

Amid the campaign of propaganda, Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) said trust in Putin is ‘broken and eroded’, as the bloc banned Kremlin propaganda outlets Russia Today and Sputnik

A Russian Armoured personnel carrier (APC) burning during fight with the Ukrainian armed forces in Kharkiv on February 26

A Russian Armoured personnel carrier (APC) burning during fight with the Ukrainian armed forces in Kharkiv on February 26

Ms von der Leyen said this was the first time the EU had done this for a country under attack.

She said: ‘We are shutting down the EU’s airspace for all Russian aircraft, including the private jets of oligarchs.

‘Second, in another unprecedented step, we will ban, in the EU, the Kremlin’s media machine.

‘The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to support Putin’s lies.’ 

Since, Russia Today has also faced furious backlash for selling Ukraine invasion T-shirts with ‘Z’ logo seen on Putin’s tanks and convoys.

The state-controlled TV network started flogging items with the logo – which was on the side of military vehicles – to ‘support our guys’ in the war.

Westerners slammed the channel for capitalising on the war but some joked the ‘Z’ stood for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Tory MPs also demanded the TV regulator take action against RT after it called the invasion of Ukraine a ‘special military operation’ to ‘liberate’ the country. 

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries was among those to tell Ofcom to take ‘timely and transparent’ action against the channel. 

Despite an expectation that Ofcom would crack down on RT, a spokeswoman last night admitted that no new action had been taken.

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Commons’ Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said RT was ‘not an information network, it’s a weapon against us’.

‘So, what is it doing on our screens when media watchdog Ofcom already has the power to take action?’ he added.

RT posted a link to its ‘Z’ merchandise on social media on Sunday morning, saying the channel has ‘new merch’.

The tweet showed a number of tops in a range of sizes featuring the logo, on sale for around £12.

Since, Russia Today has also faced furious backlash for selling Ukraine invasion T-shirts with 'Z' logo seen on Putin's tanks and convoys

Since, Russia Today has also faced furious backlash for selling Ukraine invasion T-shirts with ‘Z’ logo seen on Putin’s tanks and convoys 

It said the cash raised 'will go to help the refugees of Donbass and the heroes of the RT Children of War project'. Pictured: A tank with the marking on last week

It said the cash raised ‘will go to help the refugees of Donbass and the heroes of the RT Children of War project’. Pictured: A tank with the marking on last week

The message read: ‘RT has new merch. Let’s support our guys in Ukraine. We will start sending Z to our friends tomorrow.

‘All proceeds from sales will go to help the refugees of Donbass and the heroes of the RT Children of War project.’

The symbol has been widely seen on Russian tanks and other military vehicles streaking across the border into Ukraine over the last few days.

It is believed to have been painted on the side of them to avoid friendly fire during the fog of war, or to note where they are heading.

Russia also used similar tactics on military vehicles when its army invaded Crimea in 2014.

Westerners were repulsed by RT’s new merchandise, with some saying those working for the organisation should be ‘disgusted’.

Francis Scarr, who works for BBC Monitoring in Moscow, tweeted: ‘Nothing to see here.

‘Just Russian state broadcaster @RT_com selling merchandise endorsing the war in Ukraine.’

Moscow correspondent for the Guardian Andrew Roth posted: ‘I hope that there are RT employees who are disgusted by their employer putting out merchandise for a war in Ukraine. This can’t be what you want. If it isn’t, step up and say so.’

The Kremlin-funded channel, which launched in 2005, is run by Putin’s ally Margarita Simonyan, who once said RT would conduct ‘an information war against the West’. 



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