MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country has faced a barrage of cyberattacks from the West amid the invasion of Ukraine but has successfully fended them off.
Speaking Friday to members of Russia's Security Council, Putin noted that "the challenges in this area have become even more pressing, serious and extensive."
He charged that "an outright aggression has been unleashed against Russia, a war has been waged in the information space."
Putin added that "the cyber-aggression against us, the same as the attack on Russia by sanctions in general, has failed."
He ordered officials to "perfect and enhance the mechanisms of ensuring information security at critically important industrial facilities which have a direct bearing on our country's defensive capability, and the stable development of the economic and social spheres."
Also on Friday, Ukrainian authorities said their troops repelled a Russian attack in the east, as Moscow struggled to gain ground in the region that is now the focus of the war even while intensifying its campaign there.
Battered by their monthslong siege of the vital port city of Mariupol, Russian troops need time to regroup, Britain's Defense Ministry said in an assessment - but they may not get it. The city and the steelworks where Ukrainian fighters have held off the Russian assault for weeks have become a symbol of Ukraine's stoic resistance and surprising ability to stymie a much larger force.
On Friday, a number of soldiers - just how many was unclear - were still holed up in the Azovstal plant, following the surrender of more than 1,900 soldiers in recent days, according to the latest figure from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Efforts to remove the dead from the battle were also underway, according to Denis Prokopenko, the commander of the Azov Regiment, which is among those defending the plant.
Speaking of the "fallen heroes," Prokopenko said: "I hope soon relatives and the whole of Ukraine will be able to bury the fighters with honors." The Red Cross, meanwhile, said it has visited prisoners of war from all sides of the conflict, amid international fears that the Russians may take reprisals against Ukrainian prisoners.
With the battle for the steel plant winding down, Russia has already started pulling troops back from the site. But the British assessment indicated Russian commanders are under pressure to quickly send them elsewhere in the Donbas.
"That means that Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition," the ministry said.
The Donbas is now President Vladimir Putin's focus after his troops failed to take the capital in the early days of the war. Pro-Moscow separatists have fought Ukrainian forces for eight years in the region and held a considerable swath of it before Russia's Feb. 24 invasion.
But the effort to take more territory there has been slow-going. In a sign of Russia's frustration with the war, some senior commanders have been fired in recent weeks, the British Defense Ministry said.