Feb. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday the Russian government was behind a cyberattack last fall in Georgia -- a small nation that used to be a territory of the Soviet Union -- and vowed the United States will help with security from now on.
Pompeo said Russia's GRU intelligence agency was responsible for the Oct. 28 attack, which disrupted operations at several thousand Georgia government and privately-run websites. He said the strike interrupted at least two major television stations in Georgia.
"This action contradicts Russia's attempts to claim it is a responsible actor in cyberspace and demonstrates a continuing pattern of reckless Russian GRU cyber operations against a number of countries," Pompeo said in a statement.
"These operations aim to sow division, create insecurity, and undermine democratic institutions. The United States calls on Russia to cease this behavior in Georgia and elsewhere. The stability of cyberspace depends on the responsible behavior of nations."
"It hit everybody: critical media, government authorities, private websites," said Nana Aburdjanidze, executive director of Georgia news channel TV Pirveli. "It was massive."
Georgia, which was part of the old Soviet Union before it collapsed in 1991, has had a terse relationship with Russia for the last three decades. Moscow forces invaded the country in 2008 and annexed 20 percent of its land under the guise of protecting Russian-speaking minorities. Russia still controls the annexed region.
Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in cyberattacks, including what U.S. intelligence believes to be a major disinformation campaign that was designed to favor then-candidate Donald Trump before the 2016 election.
"We will offer additional capacity building and technical assistance to help strengthen Georgia's public institutions and improve its ability to protect itself from these kinds of activities," Pompeo said.