January 15, 2022
Take a tour of the most important stories from the western hemisphere.
Good morning. A number of govt websites in Ukraine were down on Friday after a huge hacking attack, Ukrainian officials said and more...
Ukraine govt websites down after a hacking attack
Illustration: Yajur Negi

One-liner: A number of govt websites in Ukraine were down on Friday after a huge hacking attack, Ukrainian officials said.

Zoom in: While it was not immediately clear who was behind the attacks, they come amid heightened tensions with Russia and after talks between Moscow and the West failed to yield any significant progress this week.

  • “As a result of a massive hacking attack, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other govt agencies are temporarily down. Our specialists are already working on restoring the work of IT systems.” - spokesman of Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry Oleg Nikolenko wrote on Facebook on Friday.
  • Nikolenko told The Associated Press it was too soon to tell who could have been behind the attacks. “It’s too early to draw conclusions as the investigation is ongoing, but there is a long record of Russian cyber assaults against Ukraine in the past.” - Nikolenko
  •  Moscow had previously denied involvement in cyberattacks against Ukraine. 

Data leaked: Websites of the country’s Cabinet, seven ministries, the Treasury, the National Emergency Service and the state services website, where Ukrainians’ electronic passports and vaccination certificates are stored, were unavailable Friday as the result of the hack.

Swedes step up military contingency, see no imminent threat
Source: Wikimedia commons

One-liner: Sweden’s Armed Forces say it is seeing increased Russian activity in the Baltic Sea, saying there are “elements that deviate from the normal picture,” and it is increasing the Scandinavian nation’s military preparedness. It does not have to mean an increased threat, but we always adapt to the prevailing situation.” - Lt. Gen Leif Michael Claesson. 

Zoom in: Sweden, which is not part of NATO, has among other things noticed a number of landing craft from Russia’s northern navy which have been entering the Baltic Sea.

  • Claesson who is the operations manager at the Swedish Armed forces said that some of the measures taken by the Armed Forces will be visible and others will not be visible
  • He said they would be visible on the strategically important Baltic Sea island of Gotland that sits a little more than 300 kms from the Russian Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad
Russia demands US, NATO response next week on Ukraine

One-liner: Russia on Friday strongly repeated its demand that NATO will not expand eastward, despite the rejection of that by the military alliance amid a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine.

It added that it wouldn't wait indefinitely for the Western response.

Security challenge: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday described Moscow's demands that NATO will neither expand nor deploy forces to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations as essential for the progress of diplomatic efforts to defuse soaring tensions over Ukraine.

  • He argued that the deployment of NATO forces and weapons near Russia's borders poses a security challenge that must be addressed immediately
  • “We have run out of patience,” Lavrov said at a news conference. “The West has been driven by hubris and has exacerbated tensions in violation of its obligations and common sense.”
West alerts

Johnson faces fresh ‘partygate' claims at Downing Street

  •  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday faces mounting leadership pressure amid further allegations of parties held at his 10 Downing Street office-residence by staff, which were categorised as a ‘partygate' scandal due to the apparent serial breaches of lockdown rules in place at that time
  • The Daily Telegraph newspaper has reported on two farewell parties comprising around 30 people drinking alcohol and dancing to music until the early hours of April 17 last year, the night before the funeral of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh
  • Restrictions at the time banned indoor gatherings between different households and Queen Elizabeth II sat alone during the funeral ceremony for her late husband, in keeping with the social distancing rules

UK economy bigger than before pandemic in Nov

  • Britain's economy grew strongly in Novr to finally surpass its size just before the country went into its first Covid lockdown, official data showed on Friday
  • The world's fifth-biggest economy expanded by a much faster than expected 0.9% in November - before the latest wave of Covid infections and restrictions for many firms - leaving it 0.7% bigger than it was in Feb 2020, the ONS said

FB faces $3.2bn UK class action over market dominance

  • Social media giant Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms, faces a $3.2 bn plus class action in Britain over allegations it abused its market dominance by exploiting the personal data of 44 million users
  • Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, a senior adviser to Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) watchdog and a competition law academic, said she was bringing the case on behalf of people in Britain who had used Facebook between 2015 and 2019

Italy bids farewell to EU parliament chief at state funeral

  • Italy held a state funeral on Friday for European Parliament President David Sassoli, with Italian and European Union leaders joining family and friends for a service in a Rome basilica
  • "I've had a good life, an extremely good life, even if a bit complicated, and to end it at 65 is really too early," Sassoli's wife, Alessandra Vittorini, quoted her husband as saying shortly before his death