The station’s editor in chief, Alexei Vorobyov, confirmed the incident to the Russian state-owned news agency Tass, saying it appeared the internet stream had been hacked. He said technicians were investigating the origin of the attack.
While apparently under the control of hackers, the station also played the Ukrainian national anthem and the song “We Don’t Need War” by the Russian rock band Nogu Svelo.
The station is owned by Uzbek-born billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who was sanctioned by the United States and the European Union following the invasion for his alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Usmanov has challenged the European sanctions in court.
Russian government websites and state-run media outlets have faced what the government has called an “unprecedented” wave of hacking attacks since the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Experts had predicted at the outset of the war that Moscow would lead the way on cyber-assaults. Instead, attacks by hacktivists and criminals have wreaked havoc in Russia.
Among the wave of cyberattacks, hackers who support Ukraine have leaked 20 years of emails from a state-owned television and radio chain along with troves of passwords and other credentials from Russian online accounts, The Washington Post reported previously.
There have been other on-air incidents, too. In March, a Russian state TV editor stormed a live broadcast of one of the country’s top news programs with an antiwar protest sign, yelling, “Stop the war!”
Last month, hackers broke through the pro-Moscow messaging as Russia celebrated Victory Day, with Russians using smart TVs reporting seeing a message pop up on their screens. “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands,” it read. “TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.”
Mary Ilyushina, Annabelle Timsit and Joseph Menn contributed to this report.