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    Russian astronauts use space station to promote anti-Ukraine propaganda / ArsTechnica · 12:38

Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev, and Sergey Korsakov pose with a flag of the Luhansk People's Republic on the International Space Station.

Enlarge / Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev, and Sergey Korsakov pose with a flag of the Luhansk People's Republic on the International Space Station.

The Russian state space corporation responsible for spaceflight activities, Roscosmos, on Monday posted images to its official Telegram channel showing three cosmonauts with the tri-color flags of the Luhansk People's Republic and the Donetsk People's Republic.

The photos were taken recently on board the International Space Station and show smiling cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev, and Sergey Korsakov posing with the flags.

"This is a long-awaited day that residents of the occupied areas of the Luhansk region have been waiting for eight years," the Roscosmos message stated. "We are confident that July 3, 2022, will forever go down in the history of the republic."

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    Russia’s claim it has won effective control of Luhansk rejected by Ukraine / TheGuardian · 2 days ago - 16:46

Defence minister’s assertion that Lysychansk has been taken disputed by Zelenskiy who says defence of city is continuing

Russia has claimed it is in control of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region after taking over Lysychansk, the last Ukrainian-controlled city in the region.

The Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, told President Vladimir Putin on Sunday that their forces had established “full control” over Lysychansk and several nearby settlements, Russian state-media RIA Novosti reported.

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    Pro-Russia threat group Killnet is pummeling Lithuania with DDoS attacks / ArsTechnica · Monday, 27 June - 21:52

Ones and zeros appear to float in the water next to a drowning man.

Enlarge / Drowning in a sea of data. (credit: Getty Images )

Internet services in Lithuania came under "intense" distributed denial of service attacks on Monday as the pro-Russia threat-actor group Killnet took credit. Killnet said its attacks were in retaliation regarding Lithuania's recent banning of shipments sanctioned by the European Union to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Lithuania's government said that the flood of malicious traffic disrupted parts of the Secure National Data Transfer Network, which it says is "one of the critical components of Lithuania's strategy on ensuring national security in cyberspace" and "is built to be operational during crises or war to ensure the continuity of activity of critical institutions." The country's Core Center of State Telecommunications was identifying the sites most affected in real time and providing them with DDoS mitigations while also working with international web service providers.

"It is highly probable that such or even more intense attacks will continue into the coming days, especially against the communications, energy, and financial sectors," Jonas Skardinskas, acting director of Lithuania's National Cyber Security Center, said in a statement. The statement warned of website defacements, ransomware, and other destructive attacks in the coming days.

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    Russia and Germany are fighting over an X-ray telescope in space / ArsTechnica · Monday, 6 June - 14:50

Artist's impression of the Spektr-RG spacecraft carrying the German ‘extended ROentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array’ (eROSITA) X-ray telescope and its Russian ART-XC partner instrument.

Enlarge / Artist's impression of the Spektr-RG spacecraft carrying the German ‘extended ROentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array’ (eROSITA) X-ray telescope and its Russian ART-XC partner instrument. (credit: German Aerospace Center)

Launched in 2019 on a Proton rocket, the Spektrum-Röntgen-Gamma telescope is arguably the most significant space science mission built and flown by Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union more than three decades ago.

The 1.2-ton Spektr-RG spacecraft, located about 1.5 million km from Earth in a halo orbit, is an advanced X-ray observatory designed to detect and map galaxy clusters as well as supermassive black holes. The concept for the spacecraft originated during the Soviet Union, but like a lot of major space projects, it was set aside during the USSR's collapse.

The Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, eventually picked up the idea and partnered with the German space agency, DLR, on the mission. Under the plan, Russia would build the Spektr-RG spacecraft and launch it, whereas the Germany-based Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics would design and build the primary instrument on board, named eROSITA. This instrument took its first observations in late 2019 and was intended to conduct a seven-year survey.

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    New VPN Crackdown Underway in Russia, Government Confirms / TorrentFreak · Friday, 3 June - 07:38 · 3 minutes

censored Next month will mark the 10-year anniversary of a new law introduced by Russia to ensure the safety of its citizens online.

The “Extremist Websites Blocking Law” created a national blacklist to prevent socially harmful websites from being accessed by the public.

No longer would extremist, terrorist, Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), or the promotion of illegal drugs be allowed to spread online. ISPs would block offending sites within hours of receiving a complaint and Russian society as a whole would benefit.

Slippery Slope Ensues

The government assured citizens that only illegal content would be blocked and the blacklist could even be supervised by an independent citizen monitoring group. In the event, telecoms regulator Roscomnadzor appointed itself supervisor but the government did keep its word to block only illegal content, by making more and more content illegal.

Over the last decade Russia has introduced more laws to expand its blocking powers to encompass pirate streaming sites and torrent portals, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any ‘illegal’ news sites that stray from the Kremlin’s definition of factual reporting.

In the background, citizens accustomed to unblocking unlicensed media sites started using their VPN and Tor skills to get an unrestricted view of the world. Russia responded by placing strict rules on VPN servers in Russia and then via the ‘VPN Law’, outlawed internet tools that enable access to illegal information.

Information War Targets VPNs

Russia has been using its anti-VPN legislation to remove hundreds of thousands of VPN-related links from Google and since the invasion of Ukraine, has stepped up the pace . Tor is also in the middle of a blocking drama and now faces a court battle .

Over the past few days, Russian VPN users reported fresh issues when trying to access well-known providers such as NordVPN, which does not even have servers in Russia. Problems were also experienced when accessing Switzerland-based Proton VPN, peer-to-peer censorship circumvention tool Lantern, Windscribe, and related services including VPN creation tool Outline .

“We are currently investigating the issue, but it is not caused by any changes on our side,” Proton announced . “It is likely that the local ISPs and the authorities are interfering with VPN connections, in which case it may not be possible for us to solve such issues. Some servers may continue to work. We are continuing efforts to bypass the block.”

Russia Admits Responsibility

In a statement to local media, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor reiterated that website unblocking tools are illegal and measures are being taken to limit access to them.

“According to the Law ‘On Communications’, means of bypassing blocking of illegal content are recognized as a threat. The Center for Monitoring and Control of the Public Communications Network is taking measures to limit the operation of VPN services in Russia that violate Russian law,” the government agency said.

At least historically, VPN providers have usually been given notice that they need to come into compliance or face action but there are no signs that the targeted providers were notified in recent weeks. Whether it played a direct role is unclear but Proton previously offered Russians free access to its services, to bypass state censorship.

On March 15, 2022, Alexander Khinshtein, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, revealed that at least 20 VPN services are now being blocked in Russia and that Roscomnadzor intends to block more, if providers fail to comply with the law.

A key problem for privacy-focused VPN providers is the Russian requirement to connect to the Federal State Information System which contains a register of sites and URLs deemed illegal in Russia. Most simply refuse and leave the country but when that is not possible, they are compelled to block sites themselves, a situation that Kaspersky failed to prevent .

From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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    “Everything is gone”: Russian business hit hard by tech sanctions / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 2 June - 15:47

“Everything is gone”: Russian business hit hard by tech sanctions

Enlarge (credit: vladimir18 | Getty Images)

Russian companies have been plunged into a technological crisis by Western sanctions that have created severe bottlenecks in the supply of semiconductors, electrical equipment, and the hardware needed to power the nation’s data centers.

Most of the world’s largest chip manufacturers, including Intel, Samsung, TSMC and Qualcomm, have halted business to Russia entirely after the US, UK, and Europe imposed export controls on products using chips made or designed in the US or Europe.

This has created a shortfall in the type of larger, low-end chips that go into the production of cars, household appliances, and military equipment. Supplies of more advanced semiconductors, used in cutting-edge consumer electronics and IT hardware, have also been severely curtailed.

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    NASA still “pushing” for a Russian cosmonaut to fly on next SpaceX mission / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 1 June - 14:37

Anna Kikina will be just the fourth Russian woman to go to space.

Enlarge / Anna Kikina will be just the fourth Russian woman to go to space. (credit: Roscosmos)

More than three months after the invasion of Ukraine, it is clear from the actions of Russia, the United States, and the International Space Station's other partners that they would like to keep the jointly operated facility flying above Earth-bound tensions.

But one of the biggest outstanding questions is whether the manner in which astronauts and cosmonauts reach the space station will change. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, NASA and Russia had been planning to initiate "seat swaps" this fall, with a cosmonaut, Anna Kikina, flying on SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle for the first time.

Presently, Kikina is scheduled to launch as part of the "Crew 5" mission in September, which will be commanded by NASA astronaut Nicole Mann. Around the same time, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio would launch on the Soyuz MS-22 mission, commanded by Sergei Prokopyev.

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    Tor Project Unblocked But Russia Demands Censorship, Embroils Google / TorrentFreak · Friday, 27 May - 07:39 · 3 minutes

Tor After years of government censorship to suppress dissent and maintain authorized narratives, unfiltered internet access in Russia is seen as a threat.

Russia’s measures include a massive domain name and IP address blocklist governing what services can be legally delivered by ISPs. Whether that’s the “extremist organization” behind Facebook and Instagram, BBC News, Google News, or thousands of streaming and torrent sites, access is routinely denied.

The inevitable response from citizens was to circumvent these blocks with VPNs and tools such as Tor. The equally predictable response from the authorities was to categorize tools that provide access to blocked resources as banned themselves, and also subject to blocking.

Last year Russia began blocking Tor nodes and , the tool’s official homepage. Tor was branded “an absolute evil” by the chairman of the State Duma’s Information Policy Committee, who dismissed its anti-censorship billing by framing Tor as a tool for criminals.

Activists Mount Legal Challenge

The blocking of was unusual. The authority to implement an ISP blockade was granted at the Saratov District Court back in 2017 but local telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor only alerted Tor Project to imminent blocking early December 2021. Tor Project decided that in addition to a technical response, legal action would be required.

In partnership with digital rights activists at Roskomsvoboda, The Tor Project filed an appeal at the Saratov District Court. They argued that the blocking decision should be reversed because it was issued without giving Tor representatives an opportunity to participate – a violation of their procedural rights.

Court Agrees, Blocking Decision Set Aside

A Roskomsvoboda announcement reveals that the appeal was a success. Lawyer Ekaterina Abashina says that the exclusion of The Tor Project provided “an absolute basis for setting the decision aside” and the court agreed. The domain was ordered to be unblocked but an outright victory is still a way off.

A second submission by Tor Project, stating that Russian law does not contain any general prohibition on the dissemination of information related to anonymizing tools such as Tor, was rejected by the prosecutor and telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, with the latter claiming that courts have “unlimited power” to recognize any information as prohibited.

With no need to address that debate as part of the appeal, the judge ordered the blocking case to be heard at a new trial. Hearings are scheduled for this week and The Tor Project will be allowed to participate. However, the Russian prosecutor will take the opportunity to expand Tor blocking beyond the domain at the heart of the dispute by introducing a new party.

Prosecutor Decides to Involve Google

The unexpected development reported by Roskomsvoboda shows that the Saratov prosecutor’s office has decided to involve Google in the Tor Project blocking case. The prosecution asks the court to do the following:

  • recognize the information contained in the Tor Browser software application as prohibited in Russia;
  • recognize the Tor Browser application hosted on Google Play as prohibited;
  • restrict access to the Tor Browser application;
  • oblige Google LLC to remove the Tor Browser app from Google Play.

The involvement of Google in this matter could go either way. Google may choose to stand up and fight, giving The Tor Project an indirect boost with its considerable legal muscle. Alternatively, this may be a complication The Tor Project really doesn’t need right now.

Google and Russia’s Information War

Last week Google’s Russian subsidiary said it would file for bankruptcy and move its staff out of Moscow in response to the Russian government seizing its bank account. The reasons for that seizure are linked to Russia’s position on what content should or should not be available online.

In the past year, Google has been repeatedly fined by Russia over its refusal to remove content that Moscow claims is “prohibited”. Google’s YouTube has also restricted access to Russian media channels, enraging the Kremlin, but in other areas also related to censorship, Google appears much more compliant.

Notably, Google has complied with dozens of Russian government requests to delist tens of thousands of URLs from its search results. These link to VPN services that in most other regions would be entirely legal but in Russia are seen as tools granting access to banned information.

From a functionality perspective, Russian authorities see little difference between VPNs and Tor. Both allow access to “prohibited” information, something the Kremlin wants to prevent. The fact that the CIA recently used Instagram to seek out Russians to act as potential informants might also come into the mix, particularly given the advice that to evade detection, they should use Tor.

From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.