Amidst a backdrop of kamikaze drone attacks on weapons plants, uprisings in an oil-producing region, and power outages in frigid -30°C temperatures, Russia is grappling with widespread chaos just weeks before the upcoming presidential elections. In addition to Vladimir Putin’s ongoing military endeavors in Ukraine and alliances with North Korea and China, the country is now contending with the most extensive Internet disruption it has ever experienced.
Reports from various corners of the nation indicated difficulties accessing major platforms such as Google and Yandex. On Tuesday, websites with the .ru domain, including those belonging to banks and news organizations, were inaccessible for several hours. The root cause of the disruption remained unclear initially, leaving uncertainty about whether it was a domestic issue or the result of an external attack.
The timing of the internet outage is noteworthy as Putin seeks to fortify Russia’s web autonomy by limiting access to external influences from the West. Despite the absence of forewarning, the Russian government did not immediately attribute the widespread outage to foreign interference.
The internet disruption persisted for at least an hour and a half, affecting all 11 time zones across Russia, from the Baltic to the Pacific. Supermarkets faced challenges as cash registers linked to Sberbank, the country’s largest bank operating the largest payments system, experienced failures. Shoppers encountered queues, and screens displayed messages such as ‘One of our services is not yet available’ and ‘Loyalty card discounts cannot be applied.’
Users expressed frustration, declaring, ‘The Internet is broken.’ The chaos extended to government websites, including a temporary hit on the Kremlin’s own site. Andrey Vorobyov, director of the Domain Coordination Centre, acknowledged their commitment to resolving the technical problem, stating, ‘We are working on a technical problem; I can’t talk now.’
The Ministry of Digital Development assured the public that access to .ru zone sites would be restored shortly. They attributed the technical issue to a problem associated with the global DNSSEC infrastructure. As the situation unfolded, the Kremlin and various Russian government sites were affected, underscoring the scale and impact of the unprecedented internet meltdown.