Russian hackers claim responsibility for cyberattack on Lithuania

Hacking group claimed attack in response to decision by Vilnius to ban transit of goods to Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave.

Russian hacker group Killnet has claimed responsibility for a denial-of-service (DDOS) cyberattack on Lithuania, saying it was in response to the decision by Vilnius to block the transit of some sanctioned goods to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Lithuanian state and private institutions were hit by the denial-of-service cyberattack on Monday, the Baltic country’s National Cyber Security Centre said in a statement released by the defence ministry.

“It is very likely that attacks of similar or greater intensity will continue in the coming days, especially in the transportation, energy and financial sectors,” the centre said.

Secure networks used by Lithuanian state institutions were among those affected, it added.

A spokesperson for the Russian hacking group Killnet later confirmed that it was behind the cyberattack, Reuters reported.

When asked if the attack was in retaliation for Lithuania blocking the transit of goods sanctioned by the European Union to Kaliningrad, a spokesperson for the Killnet group said: “Yes”.

This attack follows Lithuania’s recent ban on the transit of goods sanctioned by the EU to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, an act that enraged Moscow and who promised a “practical” response to Vilnius for its actions.

Russia’s foreign ministry has demanded the lifting of what it terms Lithuania’s “openly hostile” restrictions on rail transit to Kaliningrad. The list of banned goods includes coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology.

“If in the near future cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the territory of the Russian Federation through Lithuania is not restored in full, then Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement last week.

“The situation is more than serious and it requires a very deep analysis before formulating any measures and decisions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The ministry said it had summoned Lithuania’s charge d’affaires in Moscow to protest the “provocative” and “openly hostile” measures.

Sandwiched between the EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad receives supplies from Russia via rail and gas pipelines through Lithuania. Home to the headquarters of Russia’s Baltic Sea Fleet, the exclave was captured from Nazi Germany by the Red Army in April 1945 and ceded to the Soviet Union after World War II.

Map of Kaliningrad, Poland, Lithuania, Russia
Map of Kaliningrad, Poland, Lithuania, Russia [Al Jazeera]

Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis defended the move and said his country was simply implementing sanctions imposed by the EU, of which it is a member. He said the measures were taken after “consultation with the European Commission and under its guidelines”.

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