Kremlin claims Ukraine hackers behind fake missile strike alerts
Ten cities panic after emergency systems start Putin out warnings of an impending attack
Millions of Russians in almost a dozen cities throughout the country were greeted Wednesday morning by radio alerts, text messages, and sirens warning of an air raid or missile strikes that never occurred. The warnings were later blamed on hackers.
According to reports from news operations in Russia, a woman's voice was broadcast through a number of radio stations – including Relax FM, Avatoradio, Yumor FM, and Comedy Radio – saying, "Attention, an air raid warning is being announced. Go to the shelter immediately. Attention, Attention, threat of a missile strike."
The broadcasts were played in at least 10 cities – Pyatigorsk, Tyumen, Voronezh, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Magnitogorsk, Stary Oskol, Ufa, and Novouralsk.
Local officials in some of the cities, including in the Belgorod and Kurgan regions, quickly announced that the alerts were fake and the country's Ministry of Emergency Situations later accused unidentified miscreants of initiating the broadcasts.
"As a result of a hacker attack on the servers of some commercial radio stations in some regions of the country, information was broadcast about an alleged announcement of an air raid warning and a threat of a missile strike," the Ministry said in a statement, according to RIA Novosti, the Russian state-owned news agency.
The Ministry said the broadcasts and text messages were the result of an attack on a a satellite operator's infrastructure and that "an unauthorized tie-in is going on the air. The alarm signals transmitted on the air do not correspond [to] reality."
Citizens were told to "follow the messages in official sources" and that technical specialists were working on the situation, according to the RIA Novosti report.
Many of the stations that aired the broadcasts are owned by Gazprom-Media, the largest media company in Russia.
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The fake alerts were broadcast two days before the one-year anniversary of Russia's unprovoked and illegal attack on neighboring Ukraine, a "special military operation" the country's political and military leaders said at the beginning would be wrapped up in a matter of weeks.
In Voronezh, one of the cities hit by the alerts and where regional authorities accused "collaborators of the Kyiv regime" of hacking into the radio stations, according to a report in the Russian independent news site Meduza.
The Russian accusations of hacking come more than a year of reports of Russian cyberattacks on Ukraine government agencies and private corporations in the weeks leading up to the invasion and in the 12 months following it. ®