Live Updates: Russia’s War in Ukraine

On Friday, Ukrainian soldiers fired a bullet from a tank on the frontline in the eastern region of Donbass in Bakhmut. The tank was captured in a battle against Russian forces in March. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

Russia has hit Ukrainian cities with missile and drone strikes for much of the past month, targeting civilians and large swaths of the country’s critical infrastructure.

On Monday, 40% of Kyiv residents were left without water and widespread power outages were reported across the country. On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of « energy terrorism » and said around 4.5 million Ukrainian consumers were temporarily disconnected from the power supply.

The destruction illustrates how indiscriminate bombing remains the Kremlin’s preferred tactic eight months into its war on Ukraine. Moscow’s vaunted hacking capabilities, meanwhile, play a peripheral rather than central role in the Kremlin’s efforts to take down Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

« Why burn your cyber abilities, if you are able to achieve the same goals through kinetic attacks? » a senior US official told CNN.

But experts who spoke to CNN suggest that the question of why Russia’s cyberattacks haven’t had a more visible impact on the battlefield is probably more important.

Effectively combining cyber and kinetic operations “requires a high degree of integrated planning and execution,” said a US military official who focuses on cyber defense. « The Russians can’t even pull off this sh*t between their aviation, artillery, and ground assault forces. »

The lack of verifiable information on successful cyberattacks during the war complicates the picture.

A Western cybersecurity-focused official said Ukrainians are unlikely to publicly reveal the full extent of Russian hacks and their correlation to Russian missile strikes. This could deprive Russia of insight into the effectiveness of its cyber operations and, in turn, affect Russia’s war planning, the official said.

Certainly, a wave of alleged Russian cyberattacks has hit various Ukrainian industries, and some of the hacks have been correlated to Russian military objectives. But the kind of high-impact hack that takes down power or transportation grids is largely lacking.

It is a stark contrast to 2015 and 2016 when, following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, it was Russian military hijackers, not bombs, that sank more than a quarter of a million people. ‘Ukrainians in the dark.

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