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Radio Free Europe Under Cyber-Attack

Several Web sites of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have been attacked, the broadcaster said Monday, suggesting the Belarus government could be responsible.

In the form of a denial-of-service attack that floods servers with fake traffic so legitimate visitors cannot get through, the assault began Saturday and continues, the network said in a statement.

The broadcaster said it is trying to restore its Web sites.

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The attack is aimed mainly at the site of Radio Free Europe's Belarus service, but Web sites serving Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia and Croatia also have been affected, the network said.

Jeffrey Gedmin, the network's president, compared the attack to communist countries jamming U.S.-backed broadcasts during the Cold War.

"Dictators are still trying to prevent the kind of unfiltered news and information that [Radio Free Europe] provides from reaching their people," Gedmin said. "They did not succeed in the last century and they will not succeed now."

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a private, nonprofit corporation that receives funding from the U.S. government. It was established in 1949 to spread pro-Western news and promote democratic values and institutions in countries behind the Iron Curtain.

The head of the radio's Belarus service, Alexander Lukashuk, said the attack began on the 22nd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in neighboring Ukraine.

He said a similar attack took place the same day one year ago but lasted only hours and did not hit services in other languages.

"We have a large Internet audience [in Belarus] that was relying on us to report live a rally of thousands of people protesting the plight of uncompensated Chernobyl victims and a government decision to build a new nuclear power station," he said.

The broadcaster suggested the government of authoritarian Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko could be behind the attack.

"It's very hard to be certain in these cases but because the target was the Belarus service it does look like it's coming from the Belarus government," said Diane Zeleny, spokeswoman for the broadcaster.

"For our listeners in Belarus, it's quite dramatic," Zeleny said. "They cannot reach us right now. This is a pretty massive attack."

There was no immediate response from the Belarussian government.

The station moved its headquarters to Prague from Munich, Germany, in 1995, after the collapse of communism. It broadcasts in 28 languages to 21 countries, including Iran and Iraq since 1998, and Afghanistan since 2002.