International Herald Tribune
Monday, June 30, 2008
MOSCOW: Hackers attacked about 300 Web sites in Lithuania during the weekend, defacing them with Soviet symbols and anti-Lithuanian slogans, officials said Monday.
The sabotage of the Web sites occurred two weeks after Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, outlawed the display of Soviet symbols. The ban touched off new tensions with Russia.
Lithuanian officials did not directly accuse Russian hackers of initiating the attacks, but said they had come from foreign computers and were most likely related to the ban.
Last year, Web sites in Estonia, another Baltic nation and former Soviet republic that has rocky relations with Russia, were bombarded with cyberattacks after Estonian officials removed a statue of a Red Army soldier from the center of the capital, Tallinn, provoking violent disturbances.
Some Estonian officials contended that Russia was behind the attacks, but the Kremlin said it had no role in them.
During the weekend in Lithuania, Web sites of government agencies, political parties and businesses were defaced with the hammer-and-sickle symbol and five-pointed stars, as well as derisive and profane anti-Lithuanian slogans, said Rytis Rainys, a Lithuanian official.
Most of the Web sites were restored by Monday.
Meanwhile, relations between Russia and Estonia also appeared to worsen during the weekend.
On Sunday, the Estonian president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, walked out of a conference in Russia after a member of the Russian Parliament harshly criticized him. The Russian, Konstantin Kosachyov, accused Ilves of stirring up pro-independence sentiment among Russia’s Finno-Ugric minority and condemned Estonia’s treatment of its sizable Russian minority.
The conference was focused on Finno-Ugric culture. Last year, Ilves was barred from attending the conference in Russia, though Estonia is one of only three countries, along with Finland and Hungary, with a majority Finno-Ugric population.
After walking out of the conference on Sunday, Ilves told The Associated Press that Kosachyov’s charges were absurd.
The frequent rifts between the Baltic nations and Russia stem largely from starkly different interpretations of Soviet history, specifically the manner in which the Baltic countries became part of the Soviet Union.
While Russia says the Soviet Union liberated Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from Nazi rule, the Baltic nations view Moscow as an invader and occupier.
There are other issues as well. In the Soviet era, hundreds of thousands of Russian speakers were relocated to the Baltic nations, leaving each country with a sizable Russian-speaking minority after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russia now contends that Latvia and Estonia discriminate against Russian speakers and says all three Baltic nations fail to recognize the heroism of Soviet soldiers.
“We consider the soft line taken toward attempts to make heroes of Nazi collaborators and revise pages in Europe’s 20th-century history unacceptable,” the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, said last week at a summit meeting in Russia with the European Union.