KYIV, Ukraine — Hackers brought down several Ukrainian government websites on Friday, posting a message on the site of the Foreign Ministry saying, “Be afraid and expect the worst.” It was the latest in a long line of cyberattacks targeting the country amid its conflict with Russia.
The attack on Friday was ominous for its timing, coming a day after the apparent breakdown of diplomatic talks between Russia and the West intended to forestall a threatened Russian invasion of Ukraine. The message appeared in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish on the foreign ministry website.
“As a result of a massive cyber attack, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other government agencies are temporarily down,” the ministry said in a statement.
Diplomats and analysts have been anticipating a cyberattack on Ukraine, but proving such actions is notoriously difficult. Ukraine did not directly blame Russia for the attack, but pointedly noted that there was a long record of Russian online assaults against Ukraine.
The move to post the message on the foreign ministry site in three languages seemed to be an effort to obfuscate the origins of the hackers and their motives, and shift blame and suspicion elsewhere.
“Ukrainians! All your personal data was uploaded to the internet,” the message read. “All data on the computer is being destroyed. All information about you became public. Be afraid and expect the worst.” It also raised a number of historical grievances between Poland and Ukraine.
The attack came within hours of the conclusion of talks this week between Russia and the United States and NATO in Europe that were intended to find a diplomatic resolution after Russia massed tens of thousands of troops near the border with Ukraine. Moscow has demanded sweeping security concessions, including a promise not to accept Ukraine into the NATO alliance.
On Thursday, Russian officials said the talks had not yielded results, and one senior diplomat said they were approaching “a dead end.”
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, said after the last round of talks on Thursday that, “the United States and its allies are actually saying ‘no’ to key elements of these texts,” referring to two draft treaties on security issues that Russia had proposed to NATO and the United States. “This is what we call a dead end or a different approach,” Mr. Ryabkov said.
Ukrainian government websites began crashing a few hours later, according to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, which said the cyberattack occurred overnight from Thursday to Friday.
By morning, the hack had crippled much of the government’s public-facing digital infrastructure, including the most widely used site for handling government services online, Diia. The smartphone app version of the program was still operating, the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper reported. Diia also has a role in Ukraine’s coronavirus response and in encouraging vaccination.
The attack crippled the sites of the Cabinet of Ministers, and the ministries of energy, sports, agriculture, veterans’ affairs, and ecology, along with many other government websites. The websites of the president…