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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2200

Hacking Pyongchang;
How Russia is helping America's arms industry

Edited by Ilan Berman and Zachary Popovich
March 30, 2018


February 24:

During the recently-concluded Winter Olympic Games in Pyongchang, South Korea, Russian military spies allegedly hacked hundreds of computers used by Olympic authorities,
according to the Washington Post. The paper cites reports from U.S. intelligence officials detailing attempts made by Russian hackers to make it appear as if North Korean agents were responsible for the hacks, by using North Korean IP addresses. The hacks, however, appear to be Russian in origin, and carried out in retaliation against the International Olympic Committee for banning Russia's Olympic team amid revelations of widespread (and state-sanctioned) doping.

Adding credence to the allegations, the cyberattacks were reportedly similar in pattern to those executed in the past by hackers linked with the GRU, Russian military intelligence service, against South Korea. The attacks caused disruptions in communication networks, internet access, and ticket delivery for those attending the Games.

Widespread worries over Russia's increasingly belligerent international behavior, and the need to defend against it, are responsible for a recent boom in American arms sales to countries in Europe.
CNN reports that a slew of recent arms deals - including the Trump administration's February deal to sell Patriot interceptors to Sweden - is tied to mounting worries on the Continent over potential Russian aggression. Recent military moves by the Kremlin, including the deployment of longer range offensive missiles to its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, have created intensified interest in U.S. weaponry, the news channel notes. "These sales are a response to not only Russia's increasing military activity, but also to the fact that Russia is modernizing its Air Force and long-range strike capabilities," says Magnus Nordenman of the Atlantic Council. "Russia may not have as many aircraft and long-range missiles as the Soviet Union did during the Cold War, but the Russian systems of today are far more capable than their Cold War ancestors."

February 26:

Russia has blocked a proposed UN Security Council resolution condemning Iran for its military assistance to Yemen’s Houthi rebels,
the New York Times reports. The veto has drawn angry rebukes from the Trump administration's UN envoy, Nikki Haley, who condemned Russia's decision to protect Iran from international censure. "In spite of a mountain of credible, independent evidence showing Iran violated the Yemen arms embargo, resulting in a series of attacks on civilian targets, Russia prevented accountability and endangered the entire region," Haley charged.

Members of the Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot were arrested after their arrival in Russian-Annexed Crimea earlier this month.
According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, band members Olga Borisova and Aleksandr Sofeyev were detained upon their arrival on February 25th, followed by the arrest of a third member, Maria Alyokhina, the following day. Crimean lawmakers have revealed that the trio were brought to a medical institution for testing, but local Russian authorities have not commented on the arrests. The protest band is famous for staging protests throughout Russian cities and monuments, most notably for their 2012 demonstration at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Thai police officials have arrested ten Russian citizens, including a Russian woman at the center of the current controversy over oligarch billionaire Oleg Deripaska's connections to the Kremlin.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the woman, Nastya Rybka, is said to have provided photos and videos that were used in the incriminating documentary against Deripaska put together by Russian opposition leader and activist Aleksei Navalny. The group of ten will face trial in Thailand followed by their deportation to Russia, according to the chief of the consular department at the Russian embassy in Thailand.