MOSCOW, March 7 (RIA Novosti) – The web domain of the Russian government’s official newspaper was defaced and taken down Friday by alleged supporters of the Ukrainian uprising that led to the toppling of the country’s president.
As of early morning Friday, Rg.ru sported a logo bearing the word “KiberSotnya” (“CyberHundred”) on a blue-and-yellow background – the colors of Ukrainian flag – and with a tooltip reading “Pwned by CyberMaidan.”
The website went down later the same day and remained offline for several hours.
References to “Maidan” are an allusion to the square on which the months-long protests were held sparked by a government decision in late November to back away from a historic deal for Ukraine to bolster economic and political ties with the EU.
“This must have been a digital stone of sorts thrown from the Maidan,” Rossiiskaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Vladislav Fronin told RIA Novosti.
Fronin said the website was expected to be back up online by the end of the day Friday.
KiberSotnya denied involvement on their Facebook page, saying that hacking was a criminal offense.
But it said it did not denounce such attacks by “covert groups of digital activists.”
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last month after a lengthy and sometimes bloody standoff with the opposition that resulted in 100 deaths, including more than a dozen police officers. The victims have been popularly dubbed “the Heavenly Hundred.”
Yanukovych fled to Russia, which has strongly denounced his overthrow.
Large numbers of men in military uniform apparently under Russian command have in recent days deployed around the heavily ethnic Russian-populated Ukrainian region of Crimea, which announced plans to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Moscow denies it has mounted any invasion, describing the heavily armed troops traveling in vehicles with Russian plates in Crimea as local self-defense groups.
A hastily organized referendum on secession is set for March 16. Post-revolutionary Ukrainian authorities have denounced the move as illegal.