A Ukrainian group calling itself Cyber Hunta has released more than a gigabyte of emails and other material from the office of one of Vladimir Putin’s top aides, Vladislav Surkov.
It shows Russian fingerprints all over the Ukraine separatist movement, despite Putin’s denials.
The emails show in detail how Russia controlled virtually every detail of the separatist effort in the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, which has torn the country apart and led to a Russian takeover of Crimea.
Surkov has been a close aide to Putin for more than a decade, serving as both deputy prime minister and Putin’s deputy chief of staff. The hacked emails date from 2014 when he was Putin’s behind-the-scenes aide responsible for managing Russia’s most crucial operations.
He guided separatists not just in Ukraine, but in breakaway “republics” in Georgia as well. Surkov himself apparently doesn’t use email but the hackers downloaded the Outlook email accounts of his assistants.
There is a list of casualties in the Donbass region of Ukraine sent from a high-ranking separatist official, and a list of candidates for office in a sham election. One email notes that the individuals with asterisks next to their name were “checked by us” and are “especially recommended.” Days later, those same names were announced as having been “elected”.
One US official told NBC News that the material confirms much of what the US believed was going on at the time. Surkov’s name was the first on a list of Russians and Ukrainians placed under executive sanctions by President Obama in March 2014, citing his role in the separatist movement. The action froze his US assets in the United States and banned him from entering the country. Similar sanctions were imposed by the European Union.