International

Russia issues ultimatum on West

Russia issues ultimatum on West
FILE — Russian service members hold drills in the Rostov region.
MOSCOW/KYIV, JAN 14 (AP) | Publish Date: 1/14/2022 1:48:51 PM IST

 Demands US, NATO response next week on Ukraine

Russia on Friday strongly repeated its demand that NATO will not expand eastward, despite the rejection of that by the military alliance amid a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine. It added that it wouldn’t wait indefinitely for the Western response.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday described Moscow’s demands that NATO will neither expand nor deploy forces to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations as essential for the progress of diplomatic efforts to defuse soaring tensions over Ukraine. 
He argued that the deployment of NATO forces and weapons near Russia’s borders poses a security challenge that must be addressed immediately. 
“We have run out of patience,” Lavrov said at a news conference. “The West has been driven by hubris and has exacerbated tensions in violation of its obligations and common sense.” Lavrov said that Russia expects Washington and NATO to provide a written response to its demands next week. Amid the tensions, Ukraine sustained a massive cyberattack Friday, which hit websites of multiple government agencies.
This week’s negotiations in Geneva and a related NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels were held amid a significant Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that the West fears might be a prelude to an invasion.
Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, has denied having plans to attack its neighbor but warned the West that NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations is a “red line” that mustn’t be crossed.
Washington and its allies firmly rejected Moscow’s demand for security guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion, but Russia and the West agreed to leave the door open to possible further talks on arms control and confidence-building measures intended to reduce the potential for hostilities.
The negotiations took place as an estimated 100,000 Russian troops with tanks and other heavy weapons are massed near Ukraine’s eastern border. The U.S. and its allies urged Russia to deescalate by pulling troops back to their permanent bases, but Moscow has rebuffed the demand, saying it’s free to deploy forces on its territory wherever it deems necessary.
Russian Defense Ministry said Friday that troops stationed in eastern Siberia and the far east region have been scrambled for movement across the country as part of snap drills to check their “readiness to perform their tasks after redeployment to a large distance.” 
Cyberattack in Ukraine targets govt websites
A huge cyberattack left a number of Ukrainian government websites temporarily unavailable on Friday, officials said.
While it wasn’t immediately clear who was behind the cyberattack, the disruption came amid heightened tensions with Russia and after talks between Moscow and the West failed to yield any significant progress this week.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told The Associated Press it was too soon to tell who could have been behind the attack.
“But there is a long record of Russian cyber assaults against Ukraine in the past,” he said. Moscow had previously denied involvement in cyberattacks against Ukraine.
The websites of the country’s Cabinet, seven ministries, the Treasury, the National Emergency Service and the state services website, where Ukrainians’ electronic passports and vaccination certificates are stored, were temporarily unavailable Friday as a result of the hack.
The websites contained a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, saying that Ukrainians’ personal data has been leaked into the public domain. “Be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future,” the message read, in part. Ukraine’s State Service of Communication and Information Protection said that no personal data has been leaked. The country’s minister for digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, insisted that personal data was safe, since “the operability of the websites, not the registries,” was affected by the hack. 
Fedorov said that some of the attacked websites were blocked by their administrators in order to contain the damage and investigate the attacks. He added that “a large part” of the affected websites have been restored.

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