Lithuania accuses Russian hackers of cyber assault after collapse of over 300 websites


LITHUANIA:COMPUTER HACKERS have attacked hundreds of Lithuanian websites and replaced their content with the Soviet hammer and sickle and five-pointed red star, just days after the Baltic state angered Russian nationalists by banning the use of communist symbols.

"More than 300 private and official sites were attacked from so-called proxy servers located in territories east of Lithuania," said Sigitas Jurkevicius of Lithuania's communications authority, without naming any specific countries.

Suspicion fell on Belarus, the fiefdom of autocratic president Alexander Lukashenko, with whom Lithuania has tense relations, and most strongly on Russia, which regularly accuses the Baltic states of persecuting Russians and demonising their former Soviet rulers.

The hackers struck the websites of the ruling Social Democratic Party, the national ethics council and the securities and exchange commission, in an attack that many Lithuanians linked to last Friday's signing into law of a Bill to ban public use of Soviet and communist symbols.

"Lithuania has experienced a serious attack on the internet resources," said defence minister Juozas Olekas. "I cannot rule out there is a direct link with our recent legislation." Ties between Moscow and Vilnius have deteriorated recently, after Lithuania temporarily blocked talks on a new EU-Russia partnership deal in protest at the Kremlin's alleged use of its huge energy resources as a political weapon, and its refusal to compensate Lithuanian victims of the Soviet labour camps.

The cyber attacks resembled those suffered by Estonian websites last year, after the Tallinn government moved a Red Army war memorial away from the city centre.

Many of the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russians who live in the Baltic states feel discriminated against by local authorities, and resent what they see as a lack of respect for the memory of the Soviet troops who died driving the Nazi army from the region.

Most ethnic Estonians, Lithuanians and Latvians, however, insist that the arrival from the east of the Red Army in 1944 did not in fact result in liberation, but only a different type of occupation, and one which lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union decades later.

A rare meeting last weekend between Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, did little to improve relations. Mr Ilves walked out of the conference after a senior Moscow politician criticised Estonia's treatment of Russians and accused him of encouraging separatism among Siberian minorities who speak a language related to Estonian, Finnish and Hungarian.