“Russian missiles can’t destroy the cloud,” Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation explained.
LAS VEGAS—Last February, with Russian military forces bearing down on its nation, the Ukrainian government made the decision to migrate terabytes of critical government data to the cloud in an effort to preserve integral digital services for Ukrainians amid missile strikes and machine gun fire.
Amazon Web Services, an early partner with Ukraine, worked with a small action team of government officials to deliver three of its Snowball devices from Dublin to Ukraine through Poland during the early days of Russia’s invasion. Each Snowball—an edge-computing device designed to transport data into and out of the cloud—is capable of storing up to 80 terabytes of data offline. In the immediacy of Russian aggression, the emergency cloud migration proved critical to Ukraine’s continuity of government services, according to Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Federov.
“AWS helped us in the very first days of the full-scale invasion,” Federov said Tuesday, speaking at AWS’ re:Invent conference in Las Vegas. “AWS’ leadership made a decision that saved the Ukrainian government and economy. The solution to save Ukrainian databases and state registers was cloud migration. What we like the most about this partnership with cloud companies is that Russian missiles can't destroy the cloud."
Federov added, “Let me be honest with you. This is priceless. State registers and databases are critical information infrastructure.”
Liam Maxwell, AWS’ director of government digital transformation, explained that a small team of “Amazonians” met with the ambassador at the Ukrainian embassy on the first day of the Russian invasion to identify “what we could help them back up, and that included things like the population register, land and property ownership, tax payment records, education records.”
“That laid the groundwork to build a strategic move to help the Ukrainian government and safeguard their digital infrastructure,” Maxwell said, speaking alongside Federov.
The cloud migration aided an existing Ukrainian tech effort to digitize government services through a smartphone application called Diia. Even as it continues defending itself against Russian forces, both on the battlefield and in cyberspace, Federov said Ukraine will soon unveil a digital mortgage service, and plans to continue digitizing its government.
“We experience cyberattacks on a daily basis, this is a cyberwar,” he said, before adding that Russia continues to threaten its energy infrastructure. “Under attack is our critical infrastructure. But we have been successful in protecting [it], and every week we are launching some new public resources. Digitalization is the best response to this challenge.”
Maxwell demurred when asked by reporters whether AWS itself had experienced increased cyberattacks from Russia in retaliation for its assistance to Ukraine.
“We’ve had the ability to protect ourselves,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell and Federov used the conference to sign a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, to continue their budding partnership. AWS is one of several U.S. tech companies, including Microsoft and Google, to receive a peace prize from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for their efforts in assisting the nation.