Advisory: Be careful of what you read on social media. The algorithms used by these platforms have no regard for Biblical truth. They target your emotions to keep you engaged on their site so their advertisers can drop more ads. These platforms exist to enrich their stockholders. Consider God’s promise to Believers in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Officials said Tuesday that Russia is moving an unidentified number of troops from the country’s far east to Belarus for massive war games, a move that will bolster Russia’s military posture near Ukraine amid Western worries of a planned invasion.
In the midst of the rising tensions, the White House warned that Russia may strike its neighbor “at any point,” while the United Kingdom provided anti-tank weaponry to Ukraine.
The joint maneuvers with Belarus, according to Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin, will include exercising a joint reaction to foreign threats.
Officials in Ukraine have warned that Russia might attack Ukraine from a variety of directions, including its ally Belarus.
The US expressed its worry again on Tuesday, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki describing Russia’s incursion into Belarus as a “extremely dangerous situation.”
“We’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine,” she warned.
Last week, a series of meetings between Russia, the United States, and NATO failed to defuse tensions over Ukraine. In another attempt to alleviate the tension, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.
Ukraine’s Military Ministry announced Tuesday that it has received a shipment of anti-tank weapons from the United Kingdom, which will improve the country’s defense capability.
Russia has already began sending troops to Belarus for the war games. Fomin estimated that completely deploying weapons and personnel for the Allied Resolve 2022 drills, which are scheduled for February 10–20, would take until February 9.
Fomin did not specify the number of personnel engaged, but did suggest that Russia will send a dozen Su-35 fighter jets and several air defense units to Belarus. The deployment would strengthen an estimated 100,000 Russian troops already stationed near Ukraine with tanks and other heavy weapons.
Russia has denied intentions to attack its neighbor, but has demanded assurances from the West that NATO would not extend to Ukraine or other former Soviet republics, nor will it station troops and weapons there. During Russia-US talks in Geneva last week and a corresponding NATO-Russia conference in Brussels last week, Washington and its allies flatly rejected Moscow’s demands.
The drills in Belarus, which involve an undefined number of troops from Russia’s Eastern Military District, highlight the need for Russia’s complete military potential to be concentrated in the west, according to Fomin.
“A situation may arise when forces and means of the regional group of forces will be insufficient to ensure reliable security of the union state, and we must be ready to strengthen it,” Fomin said at a meeting with foreign military attaches. “We have reached an understanding with Belarus that it’s necessary to engage the entire military potential for joint defense.”
The joint operations, according to Belarus’ autocratic president, Alexander Lukashenko, will take place on the country’s western border as well as in the country’s south, where it borders Ukraine. Lukashenko, who has grown closer to Russia as a result of Western sanctions over his government’s repression of internal uprisings, has recently offered to store Russian nuclear weapons.
According to a senior Biden administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive subjects, Russia’s army deployment to Belarus raises concerns that Moscow is preparing to stage soldiers there in order to weaken Ukraine’s defenses with a northern offensive. He also noted that the movement may indicate Belarus’ willingness “to allow both Russian conventional and nuclear forces to be stationed on its territory.” stated the official.
In the midst of the tensions, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday that it was accelerating plans to build reserve battalions that would allow the country’s 246,000-strong military to quickly deploy 130,000 recruits.
The US and its allies have urged Russia to de-escalate the situation by withdrawing its troops from Ukraine.
“In recent weeks, more than 100,000 Russian troops with tanks and guns have gathered near Ukraine without an understandable reason, and it’s hard not to understand that as a threat,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.
Lavrov answered by restating Moscow’s position that it is free to station its soldiers anywhere it sees fit on its soil. “We can’t accept demands about our armed forces on our own territory,” Lavrov said. “We aren’t threatening anyone, but we are hearing threats to us.”
The West, according to Baerbock, is “ready for a serious dialogue on mutual agreements and steps to bring everyone in Europe more security.”
On Tuesday in Berlin, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “the main task now is to make progress on the political way forward” he stated, in order to avoid a military attack on Ukraine.
“NATO allies are ready to meet with Russia again,” Stoltenberg said. “Today, I invited Russia and all NATO allies to a series of meetings in the NATO-Russia Council in the near future to address our concerns while also listening to Russia’s concerns.”
He went on to say that NATO will submit written proposals in response to Russian demands “in the near future,” and that “hopefully we can begin meeting after that.”
“We need to see what Russia says, and that will be a kind of pivotal moment,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated.
Meanwhile, Lavrov reiterated Russia’s need for a prompt response from the West to its demand for security guarantees that would prevent NATO from expanding into Ukraine and limiting its presence in Eastern Europe. In a phone call with Blinken, who will visit Ukraine on Wednesday and meet with Lavrov on Friday, he reiterated that point.
On a visit to Ukraine on Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly slammed Russia’s army increase as “unacceptable.” She praised Canada’s efforts to assist Ukraine’s military, saying the country is presently evaluating Ukraine’s request for military equipment and will make “a timely decision.”
After the fall of Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly president in 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and backed a separatist rebellion that took over significant swaths of eastern Ukraine. In the nearly eight years of fighting, about 14,000 people have been slain.
On Nov 12th, Russia dispatched paratroopers to the Belarus-Poland border, where hundreds of migrants are camped attempting to enter the European Union.
The abrupt deployment, according to the Kremlin, was for drills, but it coincided with a buildup of Russian military personnel near the Ukrainian border, raising European and American concerns.
According to a statement provided by the Russian military ministry, two Russian paratroopers perished Friday after their parachutes collided and deflated in a burst of wind. The soldiers attempted to use their reserve parachutes, but they were at too low an altitude for them to function properly, according to the ministry.
“Expanding NATO further into post-Soviet space is a red line with Russia, and the US is frankly not in a position to challenge it without running a huge risk,” Greg Scoblete of RealClearWorld told Forbes. “Put bluntly, Russia will be able to invade eastern Ukraine faster than the West could admit Ukraine into NATO to deter Russian aggression.”
However the bellicose military maneuvers performed by Russia in recent weeks have resulted in international support from allies; Quickly throwing a stick in the spokes of strategic speculation of western flexibility to react to a Russian invasion in Ukraine. More updates to come on the status of this stalemate in the future. I’d encourage everyone to take note of the circumstances on the Russia/Ukraine border, but don’t let it bog you down. 1 Peter 4:12-14 says: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Stay inquisitive in the word of God, and the world around you.
Ukraine, Kyiv— Officials say a cyberattack made a number of Ukrainian government websites momentarily unavailable on Friday.
While it was unclear who was to blame, the outage occurred amid rising tensions with Russia and after discussions between Moscow and the West failed to achieve major results this week.
“It is too early to identify who was behind it,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told The Associated Press, “but there is a long record of Russian cyber assaults against Ukraine in the past.”
Moscow had previously denied any involvement in Ukraine’s cyberattacks.
According to Victor Zhora, deputy chair of the State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection, the attack targeted over 70 websites of both national and regional government agencies, but no essential infrastructure was harmed and no personal data was accessed.
According to Oleh Derevianko, a top private sector expert and founder of the ISSP cybersecurity firm, the hack amounted to a straightforward defacement of official websites. The hackers gained access to a content management system that they all use, but “didn’t gain access to the websites themselves,” according to the report.
According to Derevianko, the fundamental question is whether this is a stand-alone hacktivist attack by “patriotic” Russian freelancers or part of a broader state-sponsored operation.
Ukrainians’ personal data was allegedly put online and destroyed, according to a message sent by the hackers in Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish. “Be afraid and expect the worst,” it warned Ukrainians. Poland’s government responded with a statement claiming that Russia has a history of similar disinformation tactics and that the Polish in the message was clearly not from a native speaker.
Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have been high in recent months, with Moscow’s massing of 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border.
In light of the cyberattacks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that the alliance will continue to provide “strong political and practical support” to Ukraine.
In a statement, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “NATO and Ukraine will sign an agreement on enhanced cyber cooperation in the coming days.”
Russia has a lengthy history of cyberattacks against Ukraine, including nearly destabilizing the country’s national elections in 2014 and briefly knocking out parts of its power grid in the winters of 2015 and 2016. The NotPetya virus, which targeted Ukrainian firms and caused more than $10 billion in damage internationally, was released by Russia in 2017 and was one of the most catastrophic cyberattacks on record.
Since then, Ukrainian cyber experts have been bolstering vital infrastructure defenses. Russian attacks on the electricity system, train network, and central bank, according to Zhora, are of special concern to officials.
According to experts, the prospect of another hack is serious because it would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to destabilize Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations that want to join NATO without fully committing troops on ground.
In an interview with the AP last week, Tim Conway, a cybersecurity lecturer at the SANS Institute, said, “If you’re trying to use it as a stage and a deterrent to stop people from moving forward with NATO consideration or other things, cyber is perfect,”
Last month, Conway was in Ukraine, simulating a cyberattack on Ukraine’s energy sector. Through institutions like the Department of Energy and USAID, the US has been assisting Ukraine in strengthening its cyber defenses.
In a separate project, Members of the REvil ransomware gang, which was behind last year’s Fourth of July weekend supply-chain attack targeting the Florida-based software firm Kaseya, were detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, on Friday. More than 1,000 businesses and government entities around the world were harmed as a result of the attack.
The FSB claimed that the gang had been dissolved, but REvil had virtually disbanded by July. According to cybersecurity specialists, the group’s members mostly joined other ransomware groups. They questioned whether the arrests would have a significant influence on Russian-speaking ransomware gangs, whose operations have only modestly slowed after a series of high-profile attacks on important U.S. infrastructure, like the Colonial Pipeline, last year.
The FSB claimed it raided the houses of 14 members of the gang and seized over 426 million rubles ($5.6 million) in cryptocurrencies, computers, crypto wallets, and 20 expensive cars “purchased with money earned through illicit means.” All of those arrested have been charged with “illegal circulation of means of payment,” a crime that carries a maximum sentence of six years in jail. The suspects have not been identified.
According to the FSB, the operation was carried out at the request of US authorities, who had denounced the group’s commander to Moscow officials. It’s the first major public step by Russian authorities since US Vice President Joe Biden urged Putin last year that his country needs to crack down on ransomware criminals.
Experts say it’s too early to tell whether the arrests are part of a larger Kremlin crackdown on ransomware offenders, or whether they’re merely a haphazard effort to satisfy the White House.
Bill Siegel, CEO of ransomware response service Coveware, said he’ll be waiting to see how long those arrested are sentenced to prison. “The follow-through on sentencing will send the strongest signal one way or another as to IF there has truly been a change in how tolerant Russia will be in the future to cyber criminals,” he added via email.
While the arrests follow a pattern of Kremlin pressure on ransomware criminals—including in some cases forcing them to hand over decryption keys—those arrested could simply be low-level affiliates, not the core group that managed the data-scrambling malware, according to Yelisey Boguslavskiy, research director at Advanced Intelligence. According to him, the REvil syndicate also allegedly ripped off several associates, giving it adversaries in the criminal underworld.
REvil’s attacks destroyed tens of thousands of machines around the world and netted at least $200 million in ransom payments, according to Attorney General Merrick Garland, who announced charges against two of the gang’s members in November.
Attacks like these drew a lot of attention from law enforcement officials all over the world. In November, the US filed accusations against two affiliates, just hours after European law enforcement officials unveiled the findings of a 17-nation investigation. Since February, seven hackers related to REvil and another ransomware family have been detained as part of the operation, according to Europol.
Last year, the Associated Press reported that US officials gave a small number of names of suspected ransomware operators with Russian officials, who indicated they were looking into it.
“Whatever Russia’s motivations may be,” Brett Callow, a ransomware analyst at cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, said the arrests would “certainly send shockwaves through the cybercrime community. The gang’s former affiliates and business associates will invariably be concerned about the implications.”
This is only the beginning of a tsunami of cyber infrastructure being prodded at as people inevitably test their skills behind a computer in light of global political unrest. The truth is, cyber security is a cat and mouse game. Vulnerabilities are inherent in these complex systems because they’re built for the end user, and not to prevent people from snooping around in the back end. Most of the cyber infrastructure currently in place could be considered practically naked in terms of cyber security because there are so many ways to exploit data. Why else would China go crazy for data like the leprechaun hoarding lucky charms in the old commercials? It’s valuable and its available; There’s a market for it, and you’re the product. Our complex way of life as a civilization has inadvertently created multiple back doors to be exploited by people more tech savvy than the rest of us. Technology related vulnerabilities can be expected to be magnified and exploited in the coming years for various reasons; political or criminally motivated. Stay inquisitive in the word of God, and the world around you.
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