TBILISI, Georgia — Georgian authorities on Feb. 20 accused Russia’s military intelligence of launching a large-scale cyberattack that targeted the government and private organizations with the goal of destabilizing the ex-Soviet nation .
The United States and Britain also weighed in, strongly condemning the alleged action by Russia in October. A senior Russian diplomat dismissed the accusations.
Georgia's Foreign Ministry said the Oct. 28 cyberattack was “targeted at Georgia’s national security and intended to harm Georgian citizens and government structures by disrupting and paralyzing the functionality of various organizations, causing anxiety among the general public.”
The attack was designed to hinder Georgia's efforts to join the European Union and NATO, and “goes against international norms and principles," the Foreign Ministry alleged.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Russia's GRU military intelligence for the attack. Pompeo said in a statement that the operation “directly affected the Georgian population, disrupted operations of several thousand Georgian government and privately run websites, and interrupted the broadcast of at least two major television stations.”
Pompeo described it as part of a “continuing pattern of reckless Russian GRU cyber-operations against a number of countries.”
“These operations aim to sow division, create insecurity, and undermine democratic institutions,” he added.
The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected the accusations as “unfounded and politically driven.”
“There isn't and there can't be any evidence of the involvement of Russian official structures in any malicious cyber-activities in Georgia,” the ministry said.
It added that the accusations reflect Georgia's efforts at “demonization” of Russia and would further cloud ties.
A Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, said the cyberattack was “just one more example of how Russian malign behavior erodes transparency and predictability, undermines the rules-based international order, and violates the sovereignty of its neighbors.”
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said “the GRU's reckless and brazen campaign of cyberattacks against Georgia, a sovereign and independent nation, is totally unacceptable.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the attack, saying the military alliance “continues to provide Georgia with strong political and practical support, including on cyber-defense.”
In 2008, Russia fought a brief war with Georgia, which had made a botched attempt to regain control over the breakaway province of South Ossetia. Moscow then recognized the independence of South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian province, Abkhazia, and set up military bases there.