Russian cyber-attacks target Estonia?

Estonia, one of the most wired societies in Europe, has been subject in recent weeks to massive and coordinated cyber-attacks on government, banking and telecommunications wesbites, Internet service providers and news organizations. Computer security specialists call it an unprecedented assault on the electronic infrastructure of a state—and say the attacks re originating in Russia. Moscow is angry over Estonia’s recent relocation of a Soviet war memorial, but Russian officials deny any government involvement in the cyber-attacks.

NATO and the EU have dispatched information technology specialists to Estonia, where the attacks have disrupted government e-mail and shut down on-line banking. “These attacks were massive, well targeted and well organized,” said Jaak Aaviksoo, Estonia’s minister of defense. He dismissed the possibility that the attacks are “the spontaneous response of public discontent worldwide with the actions of the Estonian authorities” concerning the memorial. “Rather, we have to speak of organized attacks on basic modern infrastructures.”

While Estonia stops short of directly accusing the Russian government, officials say they have traced some attackers to Internet protocol addresses that belong to the Russian presidential administration and other state agencies. “There are strong indications of Russian state involvement,” said Silver Meikar, a member of Parliament in the governing coalition. “I can say that based on a wide range of conversations with people in the security agencies.” (WP, May 19)

Last month the Estonian government removed a bronze statue of a Russian soldier in the capital Tallin. The removal of the memorial was followed by angry protests by ethnic Russians, resulted in some 40 injured and 300 arrests. The issue caused tension at the May 18 EU-Russia summit in Samara, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the Russian government for preventing opposition activists from traveling to the resort city to stage a protest. (, Newstrack India, May 19) The remains of 12 Soviet soldiers buried at the memorial were exhumed when it was moved. (RIA-Novosti, May 18) Russian speakers in Estonia fear that Russian television broadcasts will be banned in the country, following a recent proposal by parliament Vice-Speaker Kristina Ojuland, who called for ending tolerance for xenophobic remarks on the Russian TV channels. “A country which is a European Union member cannot allow a foreign channel to broadcast programs full of hatred towards our country,” Ojuland. (Kazinform, May 19)

See our last posts on Russia, the cyber wars, and the legacy of World War II.