Monday, January 17, 2022

First on CNN: US intelligence indicates Russia is preparing an operation to justify the invasion of Ukraine

The official said the US has evidence that operatives are trained in urban warfare and use explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces.

The allegation echoes a statement issued Friday by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, which said Russian special services were preparing provocations against Russian forces in an attempt to trap Ukraine. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan hinted at intelligence during a briefing with reporters on Thursday.

“Our intelligence community has developed information that has been downgraded now that Russia is laying the groundwork for an alternative to fabricating an attack,” Sullivan said on Thursday. “We looked at this playbook in 2014. They are reworking this playbook and we will have, what we see as this potential laying around of excuses for the administration to share with the press over the course of the next 24 hours. There will be more details about it.”

Ukraine’s defense ministry said in a statement on Friday that “the military units of the offending country and its satellites are ordered to be prepared for such provocations.”

The US intelligence discovery comes after a week of diplomatic meetings between Russian and Western officials over the number of tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border. But the talks failed to achieve any success, as Russia would not commit to de-escalating and US and NATO officials said Moscow’s demands – in which NATO never accepted Ukraine into the alliance – were non-starters. Was.

Several government websites in Ukraine were hit by cyberattacks on Friday, a development European officials warned would escalate tensions on Ukraine.

The US official said the Biden administration believes Russia may be preparing for an invasion of Ukraine “which could result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes if diplomacy fails to meet its objectives.” “

“The Russian military is planning to launch these activities several weeks before the military offensive, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February,” the official said. “We saw this playbook with Crimea in 2014.”

The official said the US has begun to prime Russian audiences for interference by Russian influence actors, including pushing for human rights in Ukraine and narratives about Ukrainian leaders’ rising extremism.

“During December, Russian-language content covering all three of these stories on social media increased to an average of about 3,500 posts per day, a 200% increase from the daily average in November,” the official said.

US, NATO and European officials held high-level meetings with Russian officials this week. At the end of three meetings on Thursday, both sides came out with a pessimistic view. Russia’s deputy foreign minister suggested the talks had reached a “dead-end” and saw no reason to continue, while a senior US official warned that after diplomatic sessions “the drums of war were sounding louder”. Was”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Russia believes NATO will increase its activities along its border with Ukraine if Moscow does not accede to the demands of the West.

“While our proposals are aimed at reducing military confrontation, the overall situation in Europe is exactly the opposite that is happening in the West. NATO members are building their strength and aviation. In areas that are directly related to Ukraine. Adjacent to the Black Sea, recently the scale of the exercises has increased manifold,” Lavrov said.

On Friday, several government websites in Ukraine, including those of its foreign ministry, were targeted in cyberattacks with threatening text, warning Ukrainians to “fear and wait for the worst”. Ukraine’s government said it appeared Russia was behind the attack.

A US National Security Council official said President Joe Biden has been informed of the attack. The official said the US has no charge yet for the attack, but “will provide Ukraine with everything it needs to recover.”

European Union’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell condemned the cyberattack, warning that it contributed to an “already tense situation” in the region.

Asked whether Russian government or non-governmental actors were behind the attacks, Borrell replied that although he did not want to “point fingers”, “there was a definite possibility where they came from.”

CNN’s James Frater, Joseph Atman and Niamh Kennedy contributed to this report.

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