“Russia is laying the groundwork for the possibility of fabricating a pretext for an invasion, including through acts of sabotage and information operations, by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces. in eastern Ukraine,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, detailing to the press the information Washington says it has.
“The Russian army plans to start these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could start between mid-January and mid-February,” she warned, believing that such an attack could be accompanied by “widespread human rights violations and war crimes” if diplomacy fails.
Create a “pretext” to “take action”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the information was “very credible.” But the Kremlin immediately rejected “gratuitous” and “supported by no evidence” accusations.
The detailed accusations come after a series of high-level meetings between Westerners and Russians this week failed to defuse the risk of a new conflict in Ukraine.
The US government has been warning for several weeks against the possibility that Moscow, which it accuses of having deployed nearly 100,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian border for a potential offensive, previously creates a “pretext” to go to the act.
“False Flag Operations”
President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said so again Thursday to the press, promising details about the findings of US intelligence – while specifying that the latter believed that the Kremlin had not yet taken a final decision on a possible attack.
“We saw this strategy in action in 2014”, when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, “they are preparing this strategy again”, warned Jake Sullivan.
According to Jen Psaki, who provided the most detailed details to date on Friday, Washington “has information indicating that Russia has already prepositioned a group of agents to carry out false flag operations in the east of the Ukraine”. “These agents are trained in urban guerrilla warfare and the use of explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russian-allied forces,” posing as Ukrainians, she added.
“Hybrid” forces to blur the lines
The Pentagon spokesman explained that these agents could come from Russian “intelligence services, security services and even the army”.
Their forces are often “hybrid” to the point that “the boundaries aren’t necessarily very clear who they respond to specifically in these more covert operations,” argued John Kirby.
“Our information also indicates that Russian opinion leaders have already begun to create Ukrainian provocations in public media and social networks to justify Russian intervention and sow division in Ukraine,” continued Jen Psaki. By way of example, she referred to an increase in language about an alleged “deterioration of the human rights situation in Ukraine” and “increased militancy by Ukrainian leaders”.
Rise in social media propaganda
“These language also blames the West for escalating tensions” and “promotes Russian patriotism to encourage domestic support for military action,” she said.
According to US intelligence, posts in Russian about these items on social media rose to around 3,500 posts per day in December, “a 200% increase from the November daily average”.
Jen Psaki also said that the United States was “concerned by the cyberattack” of magnitude which targeted Ukraine on Friday. “We have not determined who is responsible at this stage,” she added, however.
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