Gogi Kamushadze

Ukraine’s controversial cybersecurity deal with Huawei

From the U.S. to Europe, the Chinese telecoms giant is facing sanctions and suspicion — but Kyiv is playing a different game

Governments across Europe are showing Huawei the door, but Ukraine is following a different path, entering into a new cybersecurity deal with the Chinese telecoms giant.

The new partnership was announced via the official Facebook page of the State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection on October 16. “We are ready to work closely with Huawei to ensure and improve cyber defense and cybersecurity in Ukraine,” said Yuriy Schyhol, head of the state communications service, in a separate statement on the agency’s website. “I am convinced that our interaction will strengthen the state’s defense against cyber threats.”

Soon after, any mention of the partnership was inexplicably scrubbed from the agency’s website and social media accounts, but not before hundreds of Ukrainains commented on the announcement. Huawei’s post about the partnership, however, is still public on its Ukrainian Facebook page.

The public reaction: “Thank you for reminding everyone of what is wrong with your office,” wrote one user, named Taras Yemchura, on Facebook. Another poster asked “Who made this decision? 11th graders?” The negative feedback continues to pour in on news pieces about the deal and on social media.

The expert view: Andrei Baranovich, a member of the activist group Cyber Alliance, said that his first concern is how Ukraine plans to partner with Huaewei while working with the U.S. government and military on its information security. 

“Allowing a company suspected of working for the Chinese state to come near the government is just unacceptable,” he said. “I don’t see a logical explanation for why, out of all the available vendors in secure telecommunications, they sign a deal with Huawei.”

Why this matters: As the world’s largest manufacturer of cellular technology, Huaweis close ties with China’s government and military have raised concerns in a number of countries over security risks posed by its equipment. In August, the United States, one of Ukraine’s closest allies, dealt the company what many experts referred to as a “lethal blow” by blocking the use of any American-made components in its products.

The bigger picture: With the U.S. banning the sale of its technology to Huawei, the company now has to rework its rollout of 5G. The European Union has decided, in light of the U.S. sanctions, that it is just too risky to rely on Huawei for the setting up of 5G networks on the continent. The Finnish company Nokia and Sweden-based Ericsson have now stepped in. The U.K. government will also phase out all Huawei 5G technology by 2027.

Additional reporting by Oleksandr Ignatenko

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