The Pope Scrambles; The War Exacerbates Orthodox Church Troubles

But First, the New Moby Dick Hunt has snagged another big [Russian] white whale:

NYTimes-March 16 2022-MADRID — Spain, which has pledged to seize the suspected superyachts of Russian oligarchs targeted for sanctions imposed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on Wednesday impounded the third such vessel, one of the world’s biggest superyachts, in Spanish territorial waters this week.

The Crescent. How do you say “Busted”, in Español?

The ship was impounded in the Spanish port of Tarragona, pending an inspection to establish its exact ownership, Spain’s transport ministry said in a statement. The ship, called the Crescent, was registered in the Cayman Islands. Continue reading The Pope Scrambles; The War Exacerbates Orthodox Church Troubles

A Quaker Reconsiders His Peace Testimony

My fate was heavily shaped by a small card that came in the mail in late September 1965.

That card, and fate, are back on my mind now, 57 years later.

I was in Selma, Alabama when the card arrived, still working with the civil rights movement. A few weeks earlier the endurance, courage and determination of the Black people of Selma and many other places in the South had been vindicated by passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Application of the act was just beginning. But after the nine long, tumultuous months of witness leading up to its enactment, full as they had been, my attention was turning elsewhere. Continue reading A Quaker Reconsiders His Peace Testimony

Flash: Russian News Protester Released: BBC

BBC: Marina Ovsyannikova: Russian journalist tells of 14-hour interrogation
15 March 2022

A Russian journalist has been fined and released after she protested against the war in Ukraine on a live TV news programme and made an anti-war video.
Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at state-controlled Channel 1, was detained after she ran on to the set on Monday holding a sign saying “no war”.
She said she had been questioned for 14 hours and not slept for two days, and was not given access to legal help.
The 30,000 rouble (£214; $280) fine relates to her video message.

She had pleaded not guilty to the charge of organising an unauthorised public event.

In the video, she called on the Russian people to protest against the war, saying only they have the power to “stop all this madness”.
“Don’t be afraid of anything. They can’t imprison us all,” she said.
It is not clear if she will face separate charges relating to her protest on live TV, and there had been fears she would be prosecuted under a more serious, new criminal law that bans calling Russia’s military action in Ukraine an “invasion” or spreading “fake news” about the conflict.
After the court hearing Ms Ovsyannikova told reporters that she needed to rest after two days without sleep.
“The interrogation lasted for more than 14 hours, I wasn’t allowed to get in touch with my family or friends, I was denied access to a lawyer,” she said.
She also stressed that she came up with the idea of the protest alone.
“It was my anti-war decision. I made this decision by myself because I don’t like Russia starting this invasion. It was really terrible,” she said in English as she left the courthouse.
Lawyers were unable to locate Ms Ovsyannikova for several hours after she was detained on Monday evening.
Her whereabouts were unknown until an image circulated on Russian media showing Ms Ovsyannikova in court with lawyer Anton Gashinsky.
Marina Ovsyannikova appeared in court on Tuesday with lawyer Anton Gashinsky
‘They are lying to you’
Images of Ms Ovsyannikova’s protest were quickly shared across the world after she ran on to the set of one of Russia’s most-watched news programmes, Vremya, holding a sign reading “No war, stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.”
She could also be heard repeating the words “no war, stop the war”.
The placard was clearly visible for a few seconds before the programme cut away from the live broadcast to a pre-recorded report.
Before the incident she recorded a video in which she said she was ashamed to work for what she called Kremlin propaganda.
“I’m ashamed that I allowed myself to tell lies from the television screen. Ashamed that I allowed Russians to be turned into zombies,” she explained. “We just silently watched this inhumane regime.”

Ms Ovsyannikova, who said her father was Ukrainian, said the whole world had turned against Russia.

“The next 10 generations won’t be able to clean themselves from the shame of this fratricidal war.”
Ms Ovsyannikova’s colleagues at Channel 1 were reportedly surprised by her actions.
One told the Faridaily blog – run by former BBC Russian Service journalist Farida Rustamova – that Ms Ovsyannikova, who has two children, had never discussed politics, but spoke “mostly about children, dogs and the house”.
From the moment her identity became known, Ms Ovsyannikova received dozens of comments on her Facebook page in Ukrainian, Russian and English, thanking her for her actions.
Ukraine’s President Zelensky also praised her for “telling the truth”.
French President Emmanuel Macron said France would launch an effort to offer her protection, either at the embassy or through asylum, and said he would discuss it in his next conversation with President Putin.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called her actions an act of “hooliganism”.
Russian television news has long been controlled by the Kremlin and independent viewpoints are rare on all the major channels.

Risky Business: Hackers for Ukraine vs Putin’s Techies

‘It’s the right thing to do’: the 300,000 volunteer hackers coming together to fight Russia

The Guardian: Ukraine appealed for a global army of IT experts to help in the battle against Putin – and many answered the call. [The Guardian spoke] to people on the digital frontline.

Kali learned how to use technology by playing with his grandfather’s phone. Now, the Swiss teenager is trying to paralyse the digital presence of the Russian government and the Belarussian railway.

Kali – and many others who contributed to this article – declined to share his real name because some of the action he is taking is illegal and because he fears Russian retaliation. He is one of about 300,000 people who have signed up to a group on the chat app Telegram called “IT Army of Ukraine”, through which participants are assigned tasks designed to take the fight to Vladimir Putin. In so doing, they are trying to level the playing field between one of the world’s superpowers and Ukraine as it faces bombardment and invasion.

The sprawling hacker army has been successful in disrupting Russian web services, according to NetBlocks, a company that monitors global internet connectivity. It says the availability of the websites of the Kremlin and the Duma – Russia’s lower house of parliament – has been “intermittent” since the invasion started. The sites for state-owned media services, several banks and the energy giant Gazprom have also been targeted.

“The crowdsourced attacks have been successful in disrupting Russian government and state-backed media websites,” says Alp Toker, the director of NetBlocks. He adds that Russia has attempted to mitigate the attacks and deter hackers by filtering access to certain websites, which has caused further disruption.

Like many of his peers, Kali was directed to the Telegram group, which has Ukrainian- and English-language versions, by Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister for digital transformation. Fedorov, 31, has been using his vastly expanded Twitter profile to plead with executives at the world’s biggest tech firms to cut ties with Russia. . . .

While his home country has long maintained a policy of military neutrality, Kali was spurred to action when he saw Fedorov’s tweet. “I wanted to help and use my attacking skills to help Ukraine,” he says via Telegram. “I’m from Switzerland, but I’m a strong hacker and I’m so sorry for every Ukrainian. I do it because I stand with Ukraine and I want to help somehow. I think if we hack Russia’s infrastructure they will stop, maybe, because nothing will work any more.”

Kali says his parents aren’t especially keen on what he is doing, although he tries not to tell them much about it. And he is not the only one.

Caroline, a twentysomething from the New York metropolitan area, told her parents she had enlisted into the IT army just hours before we speak on the phone. “They’re starting to get concerned,” she says.

. . . Caroline felt compelled to act when she saw Fedorov’s tweet. She had seen how destructive the spread of disinformation had been during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. . . ,

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister for digital transformation.
Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister for digital transformation. Photograph: Ukrinform/Rex/Shutterstock

There was just one problem: she didn’t know what Telegram was. Unlike Kali, the former preschool teacher isn’t much of a hacker. At first, she was concerned that the app – which was founded by the exiled Russian billionaires Pavel and Nikolai Durov – was a trap. But, after some research, she downloaded it and joined the group.

She felt out of her depth when the group’s administrators asked for hackers to bombard Russian state websites with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, by which websites are bombarded with traffic to make them unreachable. This is how many Russian government websites have been disabled since the invasion began.

But Caroline realised things were getting lost in the torrent of information. . . . She spends hours every day sharing information in the Telegram chat to help the masses of subscribers. “I can’t explain it,” she says. “It’s just something that’s so innately human that has been inspiring me, the more involved I get. I recognise I’m not special by any means, so all I’m doing is gathering all this information to try to dismantle these campaigns of disinformation that are going on.”***
Enrique is a Lithuanian IT expert in his mid-30s. He felt that joining the Telegram group was “the right thing to do”. “Growing up with your parents telling you stories about how they were exiled to Siberia lives with you your whole life,” he says. “We are scared that we will be next.”

. . . He is less focused on wrecking the Russian internet and more on co-opting ordinary Russians to rise up against their dictator.

“I hope the world can put pressure on Russian people so much that they would be willing to re-evaluate their upbringing, understand that people are asking them to help, look at what is really happening and perhaps they will rise up that way,” he says.

Enrique has been inspired by the bravery of the Ukrainian people. That includes those who have taken to the streets to defend their country – and those who have taken to their keyboards. Ukraine has 290,000 people who work in IT and is the world’s outsourcing tech desk. While many of them have given up their day jobs to fight for the army, others have signed up to the IT army.

That includes Sam, who works for a global advertising-technology company. He has been using his expertise to send what he calls “counter-propaganda” to Russians through advertising platforms. “We’ve been in a hybrid war and a direct war with Russia since 2014,” he says. “It was the same, but on a smaller scale. We understand how Russia acts: they do propaganda here, then inside their country, then try to share their vision to the global community.”

The Ukrainian advertising industry has sent what Sam calls “aggressive” videos that show captured Russian soldiers pleading with their mothers and trying to convince them about the reality of war in Ukraine. Others highlight the impact of sanctions on Russia and the strength of the Ukrainian army. “They will move everyone to act,” says Sam.

About 100 advertising specialists from 50 agencies are designing and disseminating adverts to try to raise awareness within Russia and Belarus of what Russia is doing, ducking and diving around advertising bans and platform closures.

Enrique has been impressed by the teamwork of the volunteer IT army. “I have never seen so many people wanting to do something in my whole life,” he says. “You ask for participants to crash something [break it] or run something and you have it.” . . .

Alex, a Ukrainian software engineer, says the Telegram group is mostly used for DDoS attacks. “I wish there were more things to do in terms of helping the IT part [of the war].” He doesn’t want to cut off Russia from the internet, but rather find a way of showing Russians images of the war.

This is what Anonymous, a hacking collective, claimed to have done with Russian TV channels this month. “My ideal way would be to do something that will demonstrate the truth for [Russians],” says Alex. However, suggestions for DDoS attacks are eagerly carried out. When links for target websites go up in the Telegram group, he says, “all of them are down” within half an hour.

Some cybersecurity experts are worried, though. “There are some risks in having this volunteer army,” says Alan Woodward, a professor of cybersecurity at the University of Surrey. He is concerned about the lack of accountability regarding who is directing the battle plan and the overarching strategy.

“At best, what they’re doing is running interference,” he says. “It may be a nuisance to the Russians, but the attacks we’ve seen so far haven’t really affected the Russian fighting capability to any decisive effect.”

Woodward says an army of 300,000 hackers will invariably include some bad seeds. “These volunteers might start attacking targets that are not really what the Ukrainian government wants,” he says. “This could be accidental. How often has ransomware spilled over and affected, say, a hospital? I don’t think anyone wants that.”

There is also a risk that such an open call could easily be co-opted by the Russians to generate negative headlines. “You never quite know who is in a volunteer group,” he says. “Not only could they do something unwanted in the name of Ukraine, but they could also do something that plays directly into the Russians’ rhetoric.”

The fear of infiltration is something that also concerns Agnes Venema, a national security and intelligence academic at the University of Malta. “How useful they are depends on how well you can vet them, how well you can coordinate them and how skilled they are,” she says. “Renaming Putin’s yacht is cute, but does the hacking of Russian television stations to play the Ukrainian anthem help the Ukrainians achieve their strategic goals?”

Despite her misgivings, Venema finds the corralling of volunteer forces remarkable. “I’m not one for throwing superlatives around, but I would say this level of civic engagement is unprecedented,” she says. Nonetheless, she says, it could quickly backfire. As soon as hackers start taking orders from the Ukrainian army, they drop their status as civilians and could be considered combatants, she says. “That means that these people are legitimate military targets,” she says.

Whether those defending Ukraine’s right to exist know or worry about that is another question. “I don’t care about it,” says Kali, who as we spoke was trying to DDoS a Russian news website that the Ukrainian IT army administrators had flagged as a source of disinformation. “I’ve never worried about it.”



Snapshots for a Grim New Week

March 14 War Notes Updates:

About Time– Pope Francis Speaks Out:
AP: VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has decried the “barbarianism” of the killing of children and other defenseless civilians in Ukraine and pleaded for a stop to the attacks “before cities are reduced to cemeteries.”

In some of his strongest denunciations yet of the war in Ukraine, and in apparent reference to Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the pontiff said that “there are no strategic reasons that hold up” in the face of such armed aggression. Continue reading Snapshots for a Grim New Week