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'Russian missiles can't destroy the cloud': Ukraine leader describes emergency migration

Urgent digital transformation in a war-torn country

Re:Invent Ukraine's Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister and minister for digital transformation, spoke to press at Amazon Web Services' re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, describing how emergency migration to the cloud is securing the country's digital infrastructure.

"Let me be honest with you. This is priceless. State registers and databases are critical information infrastructure," he said.

According to Liam Maxwell, AWS Director of Government Digital Transformation, "in January 2022 it was increasingly clear there was going to be an attack on Ukraine from Russia … in February 2022 Ukraine's parliament passed a law allowing government and private sector data to move to the cloud, and we started engaging really closely with the Ukrainians," he said.

"On the day of the invasion we met the ambassador at the Ukranian embassy in London and we sketched out a plan of how to identify the parts of the State that we could help them back up, and that included things like the population register, land and property ownership, tax payment records, education records. That laid the groundwork to build a strategic move to help the Ukrainian government and safeguard their digital infrastructure."

Three AWS Snowball devices – designed for offline migration of terabytes of data – were flown to Ukraine via Poland. "They became the first part of preserving Ukraine's data," said Maxwell.

"This is the most technologically advanced war in human history," said Fedorov. "Every day we see how technologies can kill. But we also see how technology can help.

"AWS helped us in the very first days of the full-scale invasion. AWS leadership made a decision that saved [the] Ukrainian government and Ukrainian economy. The solution to save Ukrainian databases and state registers was cloud migration," he added. "AWS made one of the biggest contributions to Ukrainians' victory by providing the Ukrainian government with access and resources for migration to the cloud."

The cloud migration works alongside Diia, a government smartphone app, to enable continuity of government business. The Diia project was already in progress before the invasion, and is described as "a single portal of public services for the population and business." In other words, Ukraine was already engaged in digital transformation, but the advent of war made its implementation urgent.

Has AWS received Russian cyberattacks because of its involvement? "I'm not going to talk about that, but you can imagine that we undertook to help Ukraine based on the ability … you know that security is job zero across AWS … we have the ability to protect ourselves," said Maxwell.

Fedorov also signed a "memorandum of understanding" with AWS, which we were told "confirms our commitment to continue to work together."

Fedorov also commented: "As you know the Russians are targeting our energy infrastructure … what we like the most about this partnership with cloud companies is that Russian missiles can't destroy the cloud."

Yes, AWS is getting some publicity out of a tragic situation – but the point is well made. ®

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