The Journal Gazette
 
 
Saturday, January 15, 2022 1:00 am

Russia framing Ukraine as threat

As false excuse to invade, US says

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – U.S. intelligence officials have determined a Russian effort is underway to create a pretext for its troops to further invade Ukraine, and Moscow has already prepositioned operatives to conduct “a false-flag operation” in eastern Ukraine, according to the White House.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday the intelligence findings show Russia is also laying the groundwork through a social media disinformation campaign that frames Ukraine as an aggressor that has been preparing an imminent attack against Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine.

Psaki charged that Russia has already dispatched operatives 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.

“We are concerned that the Russian government is preparing for an invasion in Ukraine that may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes should diplomacy fail to meet their objectives,” Psaki said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby described the intelligence as “very credible.” A U.S. official, who was not authorized to comment on the intelligence and spoke on condition of anonymity, said much of it was gleaned from intercepted communications and observations of the movements of people.

The U.S. intelligence findings, which were declassified and shared with U.S. allies before being made public, estimate that a military invasion could begin between mid-January and mid-February.

Ukraine is also monitoring the potential use of disinformation by Russia. Separately, Ukrainian media Friday reported that authorities believed Russian special services were planning a possible false flag incident to provoke more conflict.

The new U.S. intelligence was unveiled after a series of talks between Russia and the U.S. and its Western allies this week in Europe aimed at heading off the escalating crisis made little progress.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday said the U.S. intelligence community has not made an assessment that the Russians, who have massed some 100,000 troops on Ukraine's border, have definitively decided to take a military course of action.

But Sullivan said Russia is laying the groundwork to invade under false pretenses should Putin decide to go that route. He said the Russians have been planning “sabotage activities and information operations” that accuse Ukraine of prepping for its own imminent attack against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.

He said this is similar to what the Kremlin did in the lead-up to Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, which had been under Ukraine's jurisdiction since 1954.

The Crimea crisis came at moment when Ukraine was looking to strengthen ties with the West. Russia had stepped up propaganda that Ukraine's ethnic Russians were being oppressed in eastern Ukraine.

Efforts to directly influence Ukrainians appear to have continued during the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, in which at least 14,000 people have died. The Associated Press reported in 2017 that Ukrainian forces in the east were constantly receiving text messages warning they would be killed and their children would be made orphans.

Also

Ukrainian government sites hacked

KYIV, Ukraine – Hackers on Friday temporarily shut down dozens of Ukrainian government websites, causing no major damage but adding to simmering tensions while Russia amasses troops on the Ukrainian border.

Ukraine's Security Service, the SBU, said preliminary results of an investigation indicated involvement of “hacker groups linked to Russia's intelligence services.”

Separately, in a rare gesture to the U.S. at a time of chilly relations, Russia said it had arrested members of a major ransomware gang that targeted U.S. entities.


Share this article

Email story

Subscribe to our newsletters

* indicates required
Newsletters