The Justice Department indictment said the suspects were also responsible for developing malware used in attacks on Ukraine’s power grid. The first, on Dec. 23, 2015, infiltrated Ukrainian energy companies, cutting power for hours to more than 200,000 residents in the country’s west.
In a follow-up in late 2016 that targeted the power grid in Kyiv, Ukraine, the suspects used a second piece of malware, called Industroyer, to cut electricity for an hour, the indictment said. The malware, according to experts, posed one of the greatest digital threats to critical infrastructure since Stuxnet, the computer attack by the United States and Israel that took out Iran’s uranium centrifuges in 2009.
The suspects were also accused of carrying out an attack in June 2017 that is considered the most costly in history. Called NotPetya, it was originally aimed at Ukraine but quickly boomeranged around the world, paralyzing some of the biggest corporations in Europe and the United States at an estimated total cost of $10 billion. It was never clear, intelligence experts said, whether Russia intended to limit the attack to the Ukrainian economy and any company that dared to do business with Ukraine, or whether it knowingly built a tool that would wreak global havoc. But the estimated cost to Mondelez, the maker of Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers, alone was more than $100 million; Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, reported some $700 million in damages; the attack also impeded computer use at hospitals and medical facilities in western Pennsylvania.
In 2019, the same suspects took aim at the government of the country of Georgia, the indictment said. They defaced about 15,000 websites and replaced many home pages with images of its former president, known for his efforts to counter Russian influence, alongside the caption “I’ll be back,” an apparent bid to try to avoid detection.
At a news conference in Washington to announce the indictments, Mr. Demers, the Justice Department’s top national security official, took direct aim at President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who made an unusual appeal for a cyber “reset” with the United States last month.
Mr. Demers said the indictments were “a cold reminder of why its proposal is nothing more than dishonest rhetoric and cynical and cheap propaganda.”
He also took a dig in a news release at Mr. Putin’s claims that he is restoring Russia to greatness.