Mykhailo Fedorov, one of Ukraine’s deputy prime ministers and minister of digital transformation, has thoroughly exploited social media and digital assets in an effort to alienate Russia, which is now in the midst of armed conflict. with his country. He urged global tech giants to forge close ties with Russia, which has begun to feel the pinch of Western sanctions. Here, Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister explains what all digital resources are helping his beleaguered country to fight against powerful Russian forces. The 31-year-old, who is his country’s youngest minister, speaks to Malayala Manoramaby Jikku Varghese Jacob in an exclusive online interview.
In the Russian aggression against Ukraine, you became a hero who forced Silicon Valley to stand against Russia. This strategy is totally different and innovative. Could you please explain why you opted for such a methodology and how successful you are?
From the first day of the war, we chose to defend our country. We have created a modern solution: digital embargo strategy against Russia; we want to block them in any way possible. I believe technology will win the war. We are fighting for our future, so we must use modern methods. The harmful impact of the war should be felt not only by the Russian government but also by every Russian citizen. We want them to stand up and protest against Putin’s regime because it is killing not only Ukrainian children but also the Russian economy.
We make the world support us, not them. From now on, if a company still operates in the Russian market, it automatically bears blood, death and regression.
I would say that we are doing quite well in our digital warfare strategy; all the major tech companies have already imposed their own sanctions and restrictions against the Russians.
To name just a few successful cases:
Apple: Our department has excellent direct communications with Apple management. They stopped selling their products on the Russian market and blocked Apple Pay (electronic payment) technology.
Google: It stopped Google Ad, Google Pay and Google Cloud. He also blocked some Russian propaganda channels like RT and Sputnik on YouTube. The company not only imposes sanctions on Russian users, but also updates and provides its services to help Ukrainians. Updates are on Google Maps, Project Shield, Air Threat Alerts, Refugee Information, a big donation for the Warsaw office, and more.
I heard you and your team are operating from an undisclosed location in Ukraine. Could you please explain what you and your team are doing on the digital front?
We are doing everything possible and impossible to win this war. In the digital sphere, you need to react and adapt as quickly as possible. Time and speed are the most valuable sources that will help us win. As I mentioned earlier, a big part of our work is the digital embargo and total blockage of Russia and Russians around the world. There is no place for bloody dictators and propaganda in the bright new future.
One more innovative tool in our arsenal: crypto. We are not afraid to use the “freshest” technologies. Before the war, Ukraine was already among the top 5 countries to use cryptocurrencies. We have big plans for the virtual asset market here. We just legalized crypto exchanges. With this swift action, we are successfully engaging with the global crypto community. There is massive support as well as major donations from them. To date, Bitcoin, Ethereum, TRON, Polkadot, Dogecoin, and Solana addresses have received donations worth approximately $53 million. Binance has donated $10 million for humanitarian needs. The support from the crypto community was not only in words, but also in real actions.
We have created a unique first in the world: IT Army. As soon as Russian troops invaded our territory, we mobilized all our resources to resist this war and protect Ukraine in every way possible. We work all day and all night to protect Ukraine on the cyber front. Already more than 300,000 computer enthusiasts have joined the IT Army. Our IT army’s cyber and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack vectors are directed against the digital and online resources of Russian and Belarusian companies, banks and state web portals that fund the Russian military to fight against the Ukrainian people. A few days ago Russian media reported incredible cyberattacks: more than 50 DDoS attacks contained more than 1TB (terabyte) of capacity.
You are the only person who could influence (SpaceX founder) Elon Musk to provide Starlink to your country. How does Starlink help you with your connectivity needs? Moreover, even Musk warned to use Starlink terminals with caution. How do you respond to that?
Starlink is a great example of how social media can be helpful; a Twitter account helps win a war. Elon Musk supports Ukraine with concrete actions. Hot off the heels of a tweet directed at Elon with a request for help, Ukraine received a batch of much-needed Starlink satellites. The SpaceX team also adapted the equipment to Ukrainian conditions by updating the software to reduce power consumption so that Starlink could be powered from a car’s cigarette lighter. Mobile roaming is also enabled so that the phased array antenna can maintain a signal while the vehicle is moving. All of this will protect Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and help us stay connected no matter what.
(Starlink is the satellite network developed by SpaceX to provide low-cost internet access to remote areas.)
We have learned that Russia has also launched a cyberattack against Ukraine, which it has also done in the past. The Powergrid attack is an example. Do you think a cyber war is going on in the background?
Yes, Ukrainian government websites were under constant cyberattacks long before the Russian invasion (late last month). One of the biggest DDoS attacks happened in January. You get used to it; we are more than ready and know how to protect our data. Previously, we were in cyber defense and did not respond to cyberattacks from Russia. From now on, we started to act like the Russians; we can also do harm in their cyberspace. Our IT army does a lot of work; also on our side is the most famous hacker group in the world: Anonymous. With such support, we will definitely win.