The Biden administration believes Russian actors are planning potential sabotage operations against Russian forces and fabricating Ukrainian provocations on social media to justify intervention and sow divisions in Ukraine, according to a US official who asked not to be identified.
The Biden administration has warned that Russian actors are plotting potential sabotage operations against their own forces and fabricating social media provocations to justify an invasion of Ukraine if diplomacy fails.
As part of this plan, the government of President Vladimir Putin has pre-positioned agents trained in urban warfare and the use of explosives, possibly to carry out acts of sabotage against Russian proxy forces in or near Ukraine. administration officials said Friday.
“We have information that indicates that Russia is already actively working to create a pretext for a possible invasion, for action against Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “In fact, we have information that they have pre-positioned a group of agents to conduct a false flag operation.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said a Russian invasion, if it occurs, “could begin between mid-January and mid-February.”
Russia’s plan would likely be implemented if diplomacy with the United States, NATO and major European nations failed to achieve Moscow’s goals, according to an assessment shared by a US official who asked not to. not be identified.
Russia has repeatedly denied plans to invade its neighbor, and U.S. officials have not provided further details on the intelligence they say is behind their assessment. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Western media rhetoric that Russia was allegedly preparing provocations is unfounded, Tass reported.
Kirby said “there’s a fidelity here to the information that we have that we think is very credible.”
The claim follows a cyberattack that took down a wide range of Ukrainian government websites on Friday. Seventy government agencies were affected, including the ministries of foreign affairs and agriculture, according to Viktor Zhora, deputy director of the state agency for special communication and information protection.
“There was no major data leak. The content of the websites was not damaged,” Zhora said. “We are collecting digital evidence and analyzing the data to understand the full chain of this attack.”
President Joe Biden was briefed on Friday’s attack, but the United States did not immediately blame any group or nation, and administration officials said affected websites appeared to be coming back online.
Ukraine’s top security official Oleksiy Danilov told Sky News he was 99.9 per cent certain Russia was behind the attack. European Union countries, with which Ukraine has sought to deepen ties, have condemned the hacks, with Poland and Sweden also pointing the finger at Russia.
“The cyberattack reported by the Ukrainian side is part of the typical activities of the secret service of the Russian Federation,” said Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesman for the head of the Polish secret service. He said the message appeared to be an effort to fuel tensions between Poland and Ukraine.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said earlier today: “We have to be very firm in our messages to Russia – that if there are attacks on Ukraine we will be very tough and very strong and robust in our response.
In previous incursions into Ukraine’s Crimea region and Georgia, Russia has been accused of stepping up disinformation campaigns and staging “false flag” events to justify its interventions. Russia has denied these accusations.
With more than 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, US officials have begun warning in recent days that Moscow may try to create a “false flag” event to justify an incursion.
“No one should be surprised if Russia spreads disinformation about commitments that haven’t been made, or if Moscow goes even further and incites something as a pretext for further destabilizing activity,” the doorstep said on Wednesday. -State Department spokesman Ned Price.
The Biden administration has discussed a range of possible actions by Moscow that it believes should trigger retaliation, according to people familiar with the discussions that took place this week. In addition to sending troops to Ukraine, this could include an effort to stage a coup against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy or other acts aimed at destabilizing his government.
In briefings after three rounds of talks with Russia this week, officials including Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Russia had little to fear militarily from its western neighbor. But the United States and its allies have warned of a “massive” economic response against Russia if it undertakes an attack on Ukraine.
Also potentially at risk from a Russian attack are nearly 200 Florida National Guard troops who are in Ukraine on a regular rotation of U.S. forces and serve as trainers, Kirby said. The Pentagon spokesman said that despite the warning about Moscow’s plans, the administration believes there is still room for diplomacy to resolve the crisis.
Talks in Europe this week failed to shed light on Moscow’s intentions, and no date has been set for the resumption of talks. While Putin has denied plans to invade Ukraine, he is demanding security guarantees from NATO that the military alliance says it cannot provide.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan acknowledged on Thursday that the United States and Europe may not fully agree on the sanctions that should come into effect if Putin attacks Ukraine, but says confident that both sides agree that there would be “serious economic consequences” for Moscow.
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