Hackers Publish Kremlin Aide's E-Mails, Allege Plan to Destabilize Ukraine

Vladislav Surkov. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Vladislav Surkov. Source: Kremlin.ru.

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian hacking collective “Kiberkhunta” (CyberJunta) leaked more than 2,000 e-mails from the inbox of Vladislav Surkov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who is often cited as a key advisor on the Kremlin’s Ukraine policy. The leaked e-mails, which are dated between September 24, 2013, and November 25, 2014, suggest an unprecedented hack into a top Kremlin official's private accounts.

The leak follows Monday's leak of two documents allegedly sent to Surkov that describe a Kremlin initiative to destabilize Ukraine between November 2016 and March 2017. The documents, also released by Kiberkhunta, include an e-mail to Surkov on August 26, 2016, from his assistant, Pavel Karpov (who Kiberkhunta says signed documents under the name “Nikolai Nikolaievich Pavlov”) titled “Priority Action Plan to Destabilize the Social-Political Situation in Ukraine,” and “Concrete Action Plan on the Promotion of the Federal Status of Zakarpattia Oblast.”

The first document details “Crankshaft,” an operation aimed at destabilizing Ukraine by working with opposition parties including Opposition Bloc (the successor to former President Viktor Yanykovych's Party of Regions), Batkivshchyna (a party led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko), and Radical Party (a party led by populist Oleh Lyashko) to organize “nationwide protests” in the second half of November 2016.

As reported by Gordonua.com, in order to “swing public opinion,” the document calls for spreading fake video and audio clips, and screenshots of correspondence between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his allies that details corruption at the highest levels of Ukrainian politics. It suggests “secretly using” parliament deputies Mustafa Nayyem, Sergei Leshchenko, Svetlana Zalishchuk, and Olga Chervokava, who have become famous for their anti-corruption investigations.

The second document details a plan to give Zakarpattia Oblast “autonomous, federal status within the territory of Ukraine,” for which it proposes supporting local Ruthenian organizations.

RuNet Echo has not been able to verify the authenticity of the documents, though the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has confirmed they are real: in an interview on TV station “112” on Tuesday, Aleksandr Tkachuk, the SBU head's chief of staff, said that “the majority of the documents” had been confirmed by the SBU.

Ukrainian lawmaker Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the minister of internal affairs, wrote on Facebook yesterday: “The hack of Vladislav Surkov's e-mailit's true. The documents published by Kiberkhunta are authentic.”

Screenshot of Surkov's Leaked E-Mails

On Tuesday, the hackers also published scans of passports belonging to Surkov and his wife and children, which they claim reinforces the authenticity of the leak:

Kiberkhunta has posted scans of the passports of Surkov and his wife, confirming the hack of his e-mail.

Like the leaked e-mails, the passport scans do not prove that the documents are real; Kiberkhunta could, for example, have hacked Surkov's e-mail to get the passport photos and then fabricated the plans to destabilize Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov responded to the hackers’ claims:

Знаю Суркова больше десяти лет, ему все время что-то приписывается то ли нашими хакерами, то ли зарубежными хакерами. Он очень талантливый человек, и поэтому, естественно, все стремятся ему что-то приписывать. Чаще всего это не соответствует действительности

I've known Surkov for more than ten years, and domestic and international hackers are always trying to ascribe something to him. He's a very talented person, and therefore, naturally, everyone tries to ascribe something to him. More often than not, it doesn't correspond to reality.


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