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US, UK blame Russia for cyber attacks in Georgia

February 21, 2020

LONDON: Britain and the United States on Thursday accused Russian military intelligence of orchestrating a "reckless" campaign of cyber attacks against Georgia last year.

The allegations follow the hacking of some 2,000 websites in the former Soviet republic, including those of the president, courts, and media, in a massive cyber attack in late October.

"The GRU’s reckless and brazen campaign of cyber-attacks against Georgia, a sovereign and independent nation, is totally unacceptable," British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

"The Russian government has a clear choice: continue this aggressive pattern of behaviour against other countries, or become a responsible partner which respects international law." The US State Department separately said the incident "demonstrates a continuing pattern of reckless Russian GRU cyber operations against a number of countries".

The GRU is Russia’s main military intelligence service and has been linked to a number of major cyber attacks, including the hacking of US Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers before President Donald Trump’s election in 2016.

The US singled out "the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) Main Centre for Special Technologies" as having carried out the cyber attacks against Georgia.

"The stability of cyberspace depends on the responsible behavior of nations," the US statement said. The 2019 cyber attack on the Caucasus country on Russia’s southern border targeted the websites of a number of government agencies, judicial, NGOs and media outlets.

They displayed a photo of Georgia’s exiled former president Mikheil Saakashvili with an inscription "I’ll be back!", the country’s Interpress news agency reported at the time.

The attack also affected servers of Georgia’s two major broadcasters, Maestro and Imedi TV, temporarily sending the television stations off the air.

In its response on Thursday, the US vowed the international community would "continue our efforts to uphold an international framework of responsible state behavior in cyberspace".

The State Department said that would include offering additional capacity building and technical assistance to help strengthen Georgia’s public institutions and improve its ability to protect itself from such attacks.