US says Russia is preparing a “false flag” operation as a pretext for invading Ukraine
Returning to a familiar “playbook”, Russia is plotting to invade Ukraine, a “false flag” operation that would justify its actions despite a week of intense negotiations between the US and Russia that apparently failed to keep Moscow away from a regional aggression scheme. , U.S. officials said Friday.
The White House also said Moscow was using social media to mount a disinformation campaign portraying Ukraine, a former Soviet republic interested in joining Western alliances, as an aggressor that would attack Russia and be domesticated.
“We are concerned that the Russian government is preparing for an invasion of Ukraine that could lead to widespread human rights violations and war crimes if diplomacy fails to achieve its goals,” White House Press Secretary Jen said on Friday. Psaki.
He said the pretext included sabotage activities in addition to misinformation campaigns.
On Friday, Kiev reported cyber attacks on some 70 government and other websites, and temporarily shut them down. It was not clear who was responsible, but a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky framed the incidents as part of efforts to “destabilize” the country.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has promised Ukraine access to the alliance’s malicious software exchange platform.
Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and occupied its Crimean peninsula after a similar series of propaganda efforts. Moscow is also supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine fighting government forces, a slow-burning conflict that has claimed thousands of lives in Ukraine.
In recent months, Russia has amassed some 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine and moved heavy weapons behind labor. There have been reports of actual fire drills over the past week.
“We’ve seen this playbook before,” Psaki said.
Citing new US intelligence reports, Psaki said Russia has already sent agents trained in urban warfare who could use explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces, blaming the acts on Ukraine. if Russian President Vladimir Putin decides he wants to move forward. with an invasion.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby described the information as “very credible.” Intelligence findings suggest a military invasion could begin between mid-January and mid-February, experts said, in part with a view to a deeper winter that would freeze the muddy plains between the two countries and facilitate Russia. move heavy equipment. in Ukraine.
Terrible denunciations of Moscow’s intentions, which came from the entire administration — the State Department and the Pentagon, as well as the White House — marked a discordant line at what had been a week of relatively civilian diplomatic sessions. that inconclusive, with the US, Russia and NATO. and most of Europe.
Meetings of senior US diplomats with Russian officials in bilateral positions, as well as with other European and NATO allies, made little obvious progress in easing tensions over Ukraine.
Putin insists Washington agrees that Ukraine will never join NATO, a “non-initiator” for both the United States and the transatlantic alliance, who insist that any nation that wants to join NATO allow request.
The Russian president is also calling for NATO to withdraw its expanding presence in Eastern Europe. Putin’s overall goal, analysts say, is to try to preserve some degree of control over events in the former Soviet Union, which now includes independent countries such as Ukraine.
“I think his goal is definitely to keep the United States and NATO out of what he considers the sphere of influence of Russia, the former Soviet states,” said Liana Fix, a resident member of the German Marshall Fund in Washington. , about the former KGB agent.
After attending meetings this week with Russian and European officials, a senior US diplomat said he believed war seemed more likely than ever.
“We are currently facing a crisis in European security,” US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Michael Carpenter told a news conference. “The drum beat of the war sounds loud and the rhetoric has become quite sharp.”
Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to the Biden administration, anticipated growing concerns about Russia on Thursday, saying that while Putin’s final designs are still unclear, the former world power was clearly setting the stage for Russia. to the invasion.
Some analysts have suggested that Russia’s willingness to engage in talks last week was a sham, a gesture to show a willingness to participate when diplomacy was not the real intention.
“Putin has already calculated the risk of going all the way to Ukraine,” Fiona Hill, a senior Russian expert and former National Security Council official, said in a podcast for the Center for a New American Security. “I wouldn’t threaten him if he wasn’t ready to do something and deliver.”
Russia said in talks this week that it had no intention of invading Ukraine. But he also remained adamant in his position and said he wanted the U.S. to respond in writing to a series of demands.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that his government would not wait indefinitely.
“We have run out of patience,” Lavrov told a news conference. “The West has been driven by arrogance and has aggravated tensions in violation of its obligations and common sense.”
Moscow and Washington, along with many European states, have agreed that there is room to talk about issues of missile deployment and the transparency of military exercises, but little else, not the central issue of Ukrainian sovereignty.