Cyber-attacks on state institutions and widespread problems with internet access were reported in Belarus on Sunday, as citizens go to the polls to elect the country’s president.
A “large wave” of cyber-attacks was launched on Saturday evening and continued on Sunday, the country’s cyber-crime watchdog reported. The distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) method was used, which disrupts the normal operation of websites by flooding them with traffic and oftentimes making them inaccessible.
The websites of the State Security Committee (KGB) and the Interior Ministry were attacked. However, the attacks were “repulsed,” the authorities said.
Meanwhile, on the day of the election, many users suddenly began experiencing problems online in different parts of the country, with some complaining that they could not access YouTube, visit certain websites, and upload files to Telegram. RT and Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan tweeted that the staff at Sputnik’s office in Minsk could not use messengers and YouTube as well.
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The highly contentious election campaign has drawn international attention due to several controversies and large-scale anti-government protests. As incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko seeks a sixth term in office, the opposition has accused him of cracking down on rivals.
Lukashenko has repeatedly claimed that foreign forces were planning to incite violence in Belarus. Earlier in August, he said that several US citizens were detained, suspected of having links to the State Department. The US did not comment on the news of its nationals being detained.
Also, authorities detained a group of Russian citizens shortly before the vote, saying that they had tried to destabilize the situation in the country. Moscow said they were employees of a private security company and their stay in Minsk had nothing to do with Belarusian domestic affairs.
The Central Election Committee head, Lidia Yermoshina, said that as of 12am local time, the turnout was 54 percent.
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