WASHINGTON — Several European Union member states are activating a team of specialists to help Ukraine ward off Russian cyberattacks, which have previously accompanied kinetic combat ordered by Moscow.

The Defence Ministry of Lithuania — the lead nation for the Cyber Rapid Response Team project — announced the move Tuesday, saying the Ukrainian government requested the aid. Croatia, Estonia, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania also are part of the project, sponsored by the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation defense and security initiative.

Per its mission statement, the project provides cyber defense capabilities to EU organizations and “partners.” The teams are equipped with “commonly developed deployable cyber toolkits designed to detect, recognize and mitigate cyber threats,” according to the project website.

On Tuesday, officials were still assessing a Ukrainian defense scenario in which the team would operate, including “on-site and remote support,” a defense official at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington told Defense News.

Cyber rapid response teams comprise eight to 12 cybersecurity experts from all project member states. Specific skills include incident response, forensics and vulnerability assessments, according to the official. Romania has operational control of the teams this year, a job that switches between participants on a rotating basis.

“We are also working on cyber with Ukraine on bilateral basis and are in constant contact and have Ukrainian representatives in our Regional Cyber Defense Center in Lithuania,” the official said.

Ukraine also receives cyber-related assistance from NATO, though the sponsoring nations of the alliance’s Estonia-based Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence denied a Ukrainian request last fall to become a “contributing participant,” a more formal association.

In that vote, which must be unanimous, Hungary delivered the sole veto against the Ukrainian application, the Kyiv Post reported earlier this month, citing Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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