A group of Ukrainian hackers has released thousands of emails from an account used by a senior Kremlin official that appear to show close financial and political ties between Moscow and separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine. The cache published by the Ukrainian group CyberHunta reveals contacts between President Vladimir Putin’s adviser Vladislav Surkov and the pro-Russia rebels fighting Ukrainian forces.
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Ukraine’s National Security Service said yesterday the emails were real, although they added the files may have been tampered with. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the published emails as a sham, saying yesterday that Surkov doesn’t use email. Russian journalist Svetlana Babaeva told The Associated Press emails from her in the cache were genuine. “I sent those emails,” Babaeva said, referring to three emails in the leak discussing arrangements for an off-the-record meeting between Surkov and editors at her publication.
Russian businessmen Evgeny Chichivarkin, who lives in London, said in a Facebook post yesterday that emails attributed to him in the cache were genuine too. An AP check has also proven that at least some of the phone numbers and email addresses from the cache are genuine. The email address for Surkov does not appear to be a personal account, but instead an address used by Surkov’s office and managed by his assistants. One email sent from the account includes scans of passports belonging to Surkov, his wife and children.
Analyst Aric Toler from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab also authenticated some material in the email dump by matching drafts sent to the account with almost identical articles that subsequently appeared in the Russian press. The large quantity of routine messages included in the 2,337 emails indicated much of it was genuine, Toler said.
The email cache includes messages sent to Surkov by separatist leader Denis Pushilin with rebel casualty lists and expenses for the operation of a press centre in the rebel capital, Donetsk. Another email from the office of Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, who reportedly has ties to the rebels, contains a list of ministers in the separatist government prior to their official announcement.