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Ukraine to cooperate with US-sanctioned Huawei in cybersecurity. Not?

Держспецзв'язок співпрацюватиме з компан…
Heads of Derzhspetszviazok and Huawei Ukraine signing a memorandum on cooperation. Kyiv, 15 October 2020. Photo:
Ukraine to cooperate with US-sanctioned Huawei in cybersecurity. Not?
On 15 October the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (Derzhspetszviazok) published a press release on its intention to cooperate with Chinese tech giant HUAWEI. The Agency told that it ”signed a memorandum on public-private partnership and cooperation in the field of cybersecurity, cyber defense, and telecommunications.”  The document was signed by Derzhspetszviazok Head Yuriy Shchyhol and Huawei Ukraine Director Ma Qi.

As the US and several other countries had earlier sanctioned the Chinese company and banned Huawei from providing 5G technology, fearing that the company’s equipment could be exploited by the Chinese government agencies, the announcement was promptly ridiculed. Then, Derzhspetszviazok removed any references to the deal altogether.

“Derzhspetsviazok is glad to cooperate with the world-class company on projects in the field of information security. I am convinced that our cooperation will strengthen opportunities for protection against cyber threats,” said the Ukrainian agency’s head, according to the press release.

Head of Derzhspetszviazok Yuriy Shchyhol and Huawei Ukraine director Ma Qi after signing a memorandum on cooperation. Kyiv, 15 October 2020. Photo: Facebook/Huawei Ukraine

“Huawei Ukraine is grateful to the State Special Communications Service for this step in the development of cooperation. We are convinced that through the interaction of the state and the private sector it is possible to build an effective cyber defense system in Ukraine,” said Huawei Ukraine Director Ma Qi, according to the post on the Facebook page of the company’s Ukrainian branch.

Huawei controversy

Huawei is a major Chinese manufacturer of telecommunications equipment and smartphones.

The US believes that the company works too closely with the Chinese communist government, which implies security risks for the users of their products. Moreover, the US explicitly stated that Huawei equipment could provide backdoors for the Chinese government into American networks.

From its end, the company has repeatedly denied such claims. However, as experts told CNBC, if the Chinese government would ask Huawei for 5G data, the company would be obliged to hand it over under China’s National Intelligence Law from 2017 that requires citizens and companies to “support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work.”

In 2018, the US banned American companies from cooperating with Huawei in most areas.

The same year, Japan forbade government contracts with HUAWEI and another Chinese vendor of telecommunication equipment, ZTE. Also, the Australian government banned both companies from providing 5G technology for the country’s networks because of national security concerns.

Following this year’s Sino-Indian border skirmishes, India announced its plans to block the Huawei and ZTE from participating in the country’s 5G network.

In July 2020, Britain announced that from 2021, domestic telecom companies will be banned from purchasing new Huawei equipment and they should withdraw all equipment from the Chinese company Huawei from the 5G mobile networks by 2025.

Later the same month, the European Commission warned in its report that the EU states need to diversify their 5G suppliers, however, not mentioning Huawei as a high-risk vendor.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron assured that France is not going to ban Huawei.

Derzhspetszviazok’s statement disappears after criticism

After informing on signing the memorandum with Huawei Ukraine on 15 October, Ukraine’s government communication provider Derzhspetszviazok wiped out their statement on the same day from their website and from their account profiles on Facebook and Twitter. The old version of the agency’s website that has still been maintained doesn’t have the material either.

“Error! The page doesn’t exist,” reads what was yesterday the press release on the Derzhspetszviazok – Huawei cooperation memo. Photo: Screenshot of the error 404 page on where the redirect leads from the deleted page.
Derzhspetszviazok’s initial tweet that was deleted today. Screenshot:

News about the memorandum between the Ukrainian government communication agency and the US-sanctioned Huawei company faced harsh criticism among social media users in Ukraine. The opinions gravitated towards the alleged dilettantism of the state agencies under President Zelenskyy and towards the suspected intentional attempt at spoiling the US-Ukrainian relations.

The Ukrainian online newspaper European Pravda says that, according to its sources, “Western partners” drew attention to that report and, in informal conversations, were surprised at the choice of priorities by the Ukrainian side.

Derzhspetszviazok didn’t provide any official comment on the fate of the memorandum on the planned cooperation with the Ukrainian branch of the US-sanctioned company Huawei. Neither did the Agency offer any explanation of what exactly made them remove their press release from their websites and social media.

Moreover, the very fact that the press release doesn’t exist anymore was discovered by social media users.

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