A group of Ukrainian hackers has published gigabytes of private material from Vladislav Surkov, one of Putin’s main advisors.

The emails and documents reveal how Russia is deeply involved in the separatist movement against Ukraine, which resulted in the loss of critical eastern enclaves in Crimean Peninsula. U.S. intelligence officials have denied any responsibility for the cyber attack. Surkov is one of Putin’s most prominent aides, as he was appointed deputy prime minister and chief of staff by the former KGB president.

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at Valdai Club session in Sochi on October 27, 2016. Image credit: EFE/Michael Klimentyev.

Hacking the hackers: A part of modern war

Apparently, the emails are mainly from 2014, when the Ukrainian separatist movement took full force. Surkov’s personal assistants were also victims of the cyber attack perpetrated by the Ukrainian hacker group CyberHunta.

2,337 emails were leaked to the public. Although they were at first thought to be false, it was hard to confirm so because each email had very detailed information that is almost impossible to make up from scratch.

The hack included drafts, deleted email, outbox, and every folder available to an account using the Outlook platform. The inbox contained invitations for Surkov to attend fashion events, which actually took place and were considered authentic.

The emails contain lists of casualties and candidates, with references to specific politicians in the separatist referendums that apparently have been checked and approved by Russian officials. There are propaganda and battlefield reports, and much more that could have only been originated by a party in direct contact with the conflict.

U.S. intelligence officials assure that the email leak confirms much of what has been believed about Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian separatist conflict, which has even gotten to the point of Russian active military fighting alongside separatist forces.

Are Surkov’s emails worse than Clinton’s?

One of the most interesting files contained in the hack is a list sent by the Ministry of Information in Donetsk. The list shows expenses for one of the newspapers printed in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), expenses for the Ministry of Culture, and staff costs for analysts, press workers, and web designers.

The other file that appears to be of high interest would be a list of proposed candidates for the Donetsk People’s Republic. Some names had asterisks on them, which meant that they had been background-checked by Russia and recommended for the position.

Presidential debate
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton at the final presidential debate held on October 19, 2016 at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Image credit: Gary He.

The list names the current Prime Minister, the Ministry of Defense, and many other government officials and candidates. Just three days after receiving the email, the DPR announced the composition of the government’s leadership. While there is no proof that Russian officials had a hand in naming the heads of the separatist government, they did receive a list whose contents became a reality.

A spokesman for Russia regarded the emails as false, arguing that Surkov does not use email at all. Although it may be true that the Russian leader does not use the email account himself, his aides Masha and Yevgenia had access to the account, which probably means that he gets the emails forwarded to him.

Some argue that the hacking was a retaliation for Russia’s apparent involving in the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Putin has already denied the claims, just like he denied the involvement of active Russian military in the Ukrainian conflict.

The U.S. accused Russia of interfering in the upcoming elections by hacking the emails, but Putin responded that this is a tactic to distract people from the issues that matter, a stance that could be attributed letter by letter to Trump.

Putin has a hand in everything

Putin also denied any involvement with the Republican candidate, although he did praise his way of doing politics and “representing the common people”:

“He represents the interests of the part of the society tired of the elites that have held power for decades. He is representing the common people, and he is acting like a common guy himself,” Putin stated in an interview.

Trump has admitted being willing to work with Putin even if the current international policy of the United States sees him as a dangerous actor intruding in Syria and interfering in homeland politics. Putin also said that he would let Ukraine be without the U.S.’s support, which would be just the position that he would want if Russia was behind the separatist agenda. According to the hacked emails, this may be the just case.

Even if Putin will deny Russia’s involvement in the war until he is no longer president, Ukraine commandos have reported killing at least 2 Russian soldiers in Crimea, which has done all but bring the separatist effort to a halt.

Russia is already suffering from sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the EU. One of the sanctioned individuals is Vladislav Surkov, but the proxy war strategies where Russia provides weaponry and ground support to separatists have not stopped at all.

The Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on March 8, 2014, but Ukrainian officials have determined that it was taken down over eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists using a Russian Buk missile launcher, killing all 298 people on board. Once again, this was denied by Russia.

Source: Medium