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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking in Moscow in June 2021. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/TASS via Getty Images

Russia's security agency said Friday it arrested members of the Russia-based cyber gang REvil that was responsible for multiple massive ransomware attacks against U.S. companies last year.

The latest: A senior administration official confirmed on Friday afternoon that Russia informed the U.S. that it arrested the alleged hackers, including an individual responsible for the cyberattack that crippled the Colonial Pipeline.

What they're saying: "I want to be very clear: In our mind, this is not related to what's happening with Russia and Ukraine. I don't speak for the government's motives, but we're pleased with these initial actions," the official said on a call with reporters.

Between the lines: The Colonial Pipeline hack, which was the largest cyberattack on an oil infrastructure target in U.S. history, was originally attributed to the ransomware gang DarkSide. The arrest of the alleged REvil member likely reflects the amorphous nature of these types of criminal groups.

Why it matters: Russia's Federal Security Service said the arrests were made based on an appeal from the United States, marking a rare occurrence of cybersecurity coordination between the two countries.

  • The security agency did not disclose specifically how many people were arrested, but said that it seized $600,000, 500,000 euros, 426 million rubles, computer equipment, crypto wallets that were used to commit cybercrimes and 20 cars purchased with illegally obtained money.
  • The U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, but the senior official said that the administration's "expectation" is that Russia will be "pursing legal action within its own system" to hold the suspects accountable.

The big picture: The news of the arrests came as a surprise to many observers, given the grim state of U.S.-Russia relations after this week's failed diplomatic talks over European security and Ukraine.

  • REvil's servers had been on and offline for several months after first mysteriously going down in July 2021 — roughly two weeks after the group launched a large-scale ransomware campaign against software provider Kaseya that affected more than 1,500 companies.
  • The Justice Department in November charged two suspected hackers — Yaroslav Vasinskyi, 22, and Yevgeniy Polyanin, 28 — that were allegedly involved in attacks by REvil.
  • On top of the Kaseya campaign, REvil also targeted the major meat supplier JBS in June, forcing it to shut down most of its beef plants across the U.S.

Go deeper: "Massive" cyberattack hits Ukraine's government websites

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the U.S. confirmation.

Go deeper

Biden boxed in on Ukraine

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration is pushing to get Congress, Europe and Ukraine on the same page as it tries to deter Russia from invading Ukraine — all while knowing that the decisive factor will ultimately be the whims of Vladimir Putin.

Why it matters: Officials from virtually all sides are warning that the risk of a large-scale, conventional war on the European continent is greater than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Few agree on how to stop it.

Jan 14, 2022 - World

U.S. accuses Russia of preparing "false flag" operation to attack Ukraine

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The U.S. claims to have information indicating that Russia has "already prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine," laying the groundwork for a potential pretext to invade, according to a U.S. official.

Why it matters: Diplomatic talks between the U.S., its European allies and Russia failed to produce a breakthrough this week, raising fears that Moscow will invade Ukraine and unleash a devastating new war.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.