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Ukrainian Hacktivists Leak Thousands of Damning Kremlin Emails

Thousands of emails purportedly sent by Kremlin officials show a Russia acting as puppet-master in the Ukrainian conflict—directly countering Moscow’s assertion that the region’s woes stem from an organically driven civil war.

Two Ukrainian hacktivists have given the BBC a data dump of emails they say came from inboxes belonging to Vladislav Surkov, a politician of Chechen descent who some call Putin’s “Grey Cardinal.” He is a key figure in drafting Russia's political policy towards the Ukraine. These include prm_surkova@gov.ru and pochta_mg@mail.ru.

The emails have not been verified, but the BBC examined the contents and found a picture to emerge of Russia fueling the conflict with a divide-and-conquer strategy, backing separatists who have been fighting against the government in Kiev since 2014.

The BBC said that among the evidence is talk of budgeting for the breakaway pro-Russian “republics” in eastern Ukraine; Moscow’s role in alleviating fuel shortages in the separatist-held regions; a list of separatist politicians for Moscow officials to vet for control over eastern Ukraine; plans for organizing and paying for separatist protests in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city; and, most damningly, an attachment allegedly sent by the separatist leader Denis Pushilin in January that shows a map of post-war Ukraine, dominated by Russia.

That map shows Ukraine’s eastern part marked as “Novorossiya” (New Russia); while the central region is dubbed “Malorossiya” (Lesser Russia)

It isn’t known how the hacktivists uncovered the data, but when asked about their motivation, one replied, "Is it ethical to kill people with guns and tanks? I guess not… so hacking is more ethical than killing people."

The Russian government is denying that the emails are real, and said that the allegations of meddling in the Ukraine are blatantly false. But BBC analysts noted that the sheer amount of small, mundane details in the mails points to their veracity. In fact, most of the information leaked so far is just "day-to-day boring business,” like organizing entertainment for birthday parties, and mails from IT office workers about system upgrades.

Also, the coding and server details that the messages were routed through would be “incredibly difficult to fake,” the BBC noted.

The BBC said that the emails of two other top Kremlin officials have allegedly also been hacked and that the content of those is still to be published.

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