U.S. intel suggests Russia is preparing a 'false-flag' operation as pretext for Ukraine invasion

The US has information that the Russian government is planning a false flag operation to streamline an invasion of Ukraine, a government official said Friday.

“We have information that suggests Russia has already deployed a group of agents to conduct a false flag operation in eastern Ukraine. The agents are trained in urban warfare and the use of explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxies,” the official said, confirming a CNN Report.

“Our information also suggests that Russian influencers are already beginning to fabricate Ukrainian provocations on state and social media to justify Russian intervention and sow divisions in Ukraine,” the official said. “For example, Russian officials and influential actors are emphasizing narratives about the deteriorating human rights in Ukraine and the increasing militancy of Ukrainian leaders.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily briefing that the agency shows Russia is “laying the groundwork to have the ability to invent a pretext for an invasion.”

Psaki added that the Russians appear to be following the same rules of the game they used when they took control of Crimea.

“We’ve seen this before, before 2014, just to note – through sabotage activities and intelligence operations, accusing Ukraine of preparing an impending attack on Russian forces,” Psaki said. She added that an invasion by Russia now “can result in widespread human rights abuses and war crimes if diplomacy fails to achieve its goals.”

The comments came hours after Ukraine was hit by a massive cyberattack that warned its citizens to “expect the worst”. The spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry told Reuters it was too early to say who might be behind the attack, but that Russia had been behind similar attacks in the past.

Psaki said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the attack and that the US “offered our support while Ukraine studies the impact and recovers from the incident.”

Russia has massed more than 100,000 soldiers on its neighbor’s border. The Russian government has denied it has any plans to attack Ukraine but on Friday broadcast footage of additional forces stationed in the region. Russian officials met with their US, European and NATO counterparts last week to defuse tensions between the two countries.

“The drumbeat of war is beating loud,” said a senior US diplomat.

Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, said at a virtual briefing organized by Think Thank the Atlantic Council that they still hope to reach a diplomatic solution. He said Zelenskyy spoke with Biden about possible trilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We’re still waiting for a reaction to that, I think, from the Russian side,” Yermak said. “But our American partners are taking our proposal with some interest.”

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