The pressure on Russia is heightening, as Ottawa joined the chorus putting blame on Moscow for allegedly being behind a large scale and destructive cyber attack that hit Georgian websites in 2019. But the Kremlin is not happy with Canada taking sides.
“Another piece of Russophobic lies and fakes spread by Ottawa along with Tbilisi and Washington,” TASS quoted the Russian diplomatic mission as saying on Friday. “This is highly regrettable and reprehensible policy which further degrades what is already poor Russia-Canada relations.”
More than 2,000 state, private and media websites, as well as national TV stations such as Imedi and Maestro, were hit by a cyber attack last October 28. In many cases, website home pages were replaced with an image of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was in power between 2004 and 2013, captioned with “I'll be back.” The United States and the United Kingdom were quick to join Georgia in blaming Russia for the massive attack, but Moscow claims no proof has been provided to show it was behind the breach.
In a statement, the Canadian foreign ministry said Ottawa was adding its voice to its allies, who accused Moscow of alleged involvement in cyberattacks targeting Georgia.
“Canada strongly condemns this malicious activity,” TASS quoted the Canadian Foreign Ministry as saying on Friday. “These actions are aimed at driving a wedge in Georgia ahead of the parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for the end of the year, as well as demonstrate a blatant disregard for international law.”
The statement issued by the Canadian Foreign Ministry came after Vladimer Konstantinidi, a spokesman for Georgia’s foreign ministry put the blame on Russian General Staff of the Armed Forces, which, according to Konstantinidi, planned and carried out the cyber attack.
“The investigation conducted by the Georgian authorities, together with information gathered through cooperation with partners, concluded that this cyberattack was planned and carried out by the main division of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” The New York Times quoted Konstantinidi as saying on Thursday, speaking on the sidelines of a news conference in Tbilisi.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and the U.K. said in separate statements that the attack was carried out by a unit of Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) known as Unit 74455 and Sandworm.
In turn, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that accusations against Russia of cyber attacks on Georgian internet resources are dissemination of clearly staged and politically motivated information.
“There is not, and cannot be, any evidence of Russian officials' participation in harmful activities in Georgia's electronic networks,” Georgia Today quoted the Russian foreign ministry's information and press department as saying on Friday in response to the statement issued by the Georgian authorities.
“This is synchronized propaganda organized by Washington, London, Tbilisi and others. It took four months to identify the ‘Russian’ incident, which allegedly took place on October 28 last year. All allegations remain based on the ‘highly likely’ principle.”
A worsening of Russo-Georgian relations began in 2008 when war returned to Georgia after South Ossetian separatists began shelling Georgian villages. Georgia’s military response to restore control over South Ossetia was met with a military operation by Moscow. Russia recognized two breakaway regions bordering Russia, namely Abkhazia in the northwest and along the Black Sea coast, and South Ossetia in the north, as separate republics on August 26, 2008. Georgia, which suffered from civil wars that flared in the two breakaway regions immediately after the Soviet Union collapsed and between 1991 and 1994, accuses Moscow of backing separatist forces.