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This week, a cyberattack hit Ukraine, particularly affecting its largest mobile network operator, the Washington Post reported. More than 24 million subscribers of provider Kyivstar both in-country and abroad lost service, preventing the delivery of air-raid warnings to their mobile phones. Among them was the vice prime minister for European integration, who was at the time in Brussels to promote Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union. The attack also knocked out local siren systems and bank machines. It is unclear who was behind it, though Ukrainian intelligence said they suspected Russia. In an apparent act of retaliation, their cyber forces hacked the Russian Federal Tax Service, in effect paralyzing its operations. These developments coincided with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to the US, a trip aimed at convincing a divided Congress to allow a $60 billion aid package to his country.
Also this week:
- After Zelenskyy and US President Joe Biden agreed to discuss support for Ukraine’s air defense systems, Russia launched a missile attack on Kyiv, injuring 53 people, Al Jazeera reported. The attack also damaged a children’s hospital in the capital. Air defense systems brought down 10 ballistic missiles, and debris left a large crater in the eastern part of the city. It was the second time the Kyiv region was hit by Russian missiles this week after another attack in a suburb on Monday injured four and cut off electricity to more than 100 homes.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated the goals of his “special military operation” in Ukraine – “demilitarization” and “denazification” – during his traditional December press conference, the New York Times reported. Putin also said he would not call another military draft. Waves of military conscription have deeply affected the president’s popularity, Al Jazeera reported in 2022. This year, in the context of the barely existent campaign for the 2024 presidential election, Russians are preoccupied with the rising cost of living. Putin admitted inflation could rise to eight percent. While he rejoiced over the growing reluctance of the West to support Ukraine, he said that his government was in talks with the US to discuss the release of two Americans detained in Russia on espionage charges. “We are ready to build relations” with the US, Putin added.