Nemstov's allies suspect cyber attack as online access to his report disrupted

Online access to Kremlin-critic Boris Nemtsov's report, detailing Russian military presence in Ukraine has been heavily disrupted on its first day of publications, as Nemtsov's allies suspect it has been the subject of a cyber attack.

The 65-page report entitled "Putin. War" contradicts the Kremlin's denials that it sent troops or weapons to eastern Ukraine, estimating that Russia spent around 53 billion roubles (nearly €1 billion) paying soldiers, 'mercenaries' and covering equipment costs in the first 10 months of the conflict alone.

These figures are provided by economist Sergei Alexashenko, one of the eight people who contributed to the report, including Nemtsov's friend and colleague Ilya Yashin, which was left unfinished by Nemtsov upon his death.

An online transcription of the report is available, however users in Russia and abroad have already complained that the page loads with a huge delay or does not load at all. Newsweek Europe can confirm that the website has been sporadically inaccessible at most times today. Once successfully loaded, the page offers the full text of the report as well as the chance to purchase the report in booklet format in exchange for a 400 rouble (€7) donation.

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Anti-corruption activist and Putin-critic Alexey Navalny, who has often involved himself with Boris Netmsov's RPR-Parnas party, commended the report as he posted photos of it on his blog.

"Well done to Ilya Yashin and company for completing the important undertaking started by Boris Nemtsov," Navalny wrote on his blog today along with a link to the online transcription.

However,, commenters on his blog quickly flooded with complaints that they could not access it. "...And the site has crashed," one reader said, while another wrote: "But alas the link is not working". Others complained that the PDF took a half an hour to download, and that the link had been non operational all afternoon.

Some commenters began to suspect foul play, saying that Russia's online censorship body Roskomnadzor had deliberately interrupted access, however Navalny assured his readers the server was simply receiving too many visits. "Lots of visitors. It seems the server was overwhelmed," Navalny commented on his blog.

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Ilya Yashin, however, has since tweeted that the website with the report's online transcription has been subject to "a powerful DDoS attack." He did not speculate who was attempting to block access to the report but insisted the problem would be resolved soon.

PRP Parnas party members and Kremlin oppositionaries have also begun circulating the the PDF via a documents application on Yandex, Russia's version of Google. Russian news outlet RBC quotes Yashin as saying that 2,000 copies of the report will be printed for promotional purposes, but if more funding is raised they would likely publish and circulate physical copies more widely.

Yashin, Navalny and their supporters have also been promoting the bank account details for donations on social media in a bid to widen the print edition of the report.

Russian liberal member of parliament Dmitry Gudkov has also praised the initiative, hailing Yashin and his colleague's "great work" in compiling the "convincing evidence".

The report itself estimates that the strength of the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine has increased dramatically since last year, jumping from 15,000 in the summer of 2014 to as many as 37,000 by spring 2015, while between 8,000 and 10,000 Russian servicemen are currently in Ukraine, swelling from 5,000 in the same timeframe.

The deaths of 150 Russian soldiers in last August's fighting near Ilovaysk and 70 in the advance on the Ukrainian town of Debaltseve in February are also listed in the report, however the names of these soldiers have not been given. Nemstov estimated these numbers based on conversations with soldier's rights groups and contact with some soldiers' families.

Their names are not listed and the report includes a quote from the legal representative of the families of 17 soldiers from the town of Ivanovo who died fighting in Ukraine. The lawyer explains the family fear for their safety should they go public with the information or ask for compensation. "If they can shoot Nemtsov in front of the walls of the Kremlin then with our clients in Ivanovo they can do whatever they like. Nobody would take note."

Other pieces of research in the document include a study of Russian media since the start of the Ukrainian pro-EU revolution, showing that references to the Ukrainian far-right organisation Right Sector, to which Russia has often equated Ukraine's government and military forces, have been more frequent than mentions of Putin's United Russia party and any other political group in Russia.

The Kremlin has not yet issued a statement on allegations in the report, however presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RBC he could not comment because he "was not familiar with the report".

Nemstov's allies suspect cyber attack as online access to his report disrupted | Politics