- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Russian officials said hackers were behind a “very powerful” cyberattack that targeted the websites of both the Kremlin and the Central Election Commission over the weekend.

Neither of the websites were breached or knocked offline, according to the Russian government, and representatives said the attacks were significant and thought to be linked to Sunday’s regional elections in which opposition politicians were virtually absent from the ballot.

Vladimir Churov, the chairman of the Election Commission, said at a press conference that “someone attempted to hack our website and alter the data” on Sunday morning by flooding its server with 50,000 requests per minute. He said that “a company based in San Francisco” was to blame and that proof would be provided later this week, state-run media reported.

On Monday, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin’s site had been targeted as well.

“Given that, you will certainly be interested to know that from 5 to 10 a.m. on Sunday, a very powerful attack was simultaneously carried out on the Russian president’s website,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, Reuters reported.

“Defense systems worked, though it was not easy. The attack was rather strong,” he said.

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Elections were held in dozens of regions across Russia and Crimea on Sunday for governors, legislators and city council members. Anti-Putin opposition candidates were only allowed to appear on the ballot in one region, Kostroma, north of Moscow, and failed to garner enough votes to gain representation in the regional legislature.

Golos, a Russian NGO that monitors elections, said it had been notified of more than 1,700 suspected voting violations concerning this weekend’s elections, including more than 800 on Sunday alone.

Mr. Churov, the election chair, said last year that he had been made aware that “some foreign foundations” had been conducting activities “aimed at thwarting the voting process in certain Russian regions.”

State-owned media reported this week that Mr. Churov has asked American authorities for assistance in identifying and prosecuting the supposed culprits behind Sunday’s cyberattack.

In the U.S., meanwhile, officials have reportedly been weighing whether or not to introduce sanctions against Russia in response to cyberattacks that Washington has attributed to hackers acting on behalf of Moscow.

American officials speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters earlier this month that Russian individuals or entities could be sanctioned in the near future as a result of attacks waged against commercial targets in the U.S.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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