The United States has information that the Russian government is planning a false flag operation to justify an invasion of Ukraine, a government official said Friday.
“We have information that indicates that Russia has already pre-positioned a group of operatives to conduct a false flag operation in eastern Ukraine. The operatives are trained in urban warfare and the use of weapons. ‘explosives to commit acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces,’ the official said, confirming a CNN report.
“Our information also indicates that Russian influencers are already beginning to fabricate Ukrainian provocations in state and social media to justify Russian intervention and sow division in Ukraine. Ukraine and the increased militancy of Ukrainian leaders.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during her daily briefing that intelligence shows Russia is “laying the groundwork for an opportunity to fabricate a pretext for invasion.”
PSAKI added that the Russians seem to be following the same playbook they used when they took over Crimea.
“We have seen this before, until 2014, just to note – through sabotage activities and information operations, accusing Ukraine of planning an imminent attack on Russian forces,” Psaki said. She added that an invasion by Russia now “could 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 warning its citizens to “expect the worst”. Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters it was too early to say who might be behind the attack, but Russia had been behind similar strikes in the past.
PSAKI said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the attack and the United States had “offered its support as Ukraine investigates the impact and recovers from the incidents.”
Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops on the border of its neighbor. The Russian government has denied plans to attack Ukraine, but on Friday released footage of more forces deployed in the region. Russian officials have met with their American, European and NATO counterparts over the past week as they seek to defuse tensions between the two countries.
“The drumbeat of war rings loud,” said a senior American diplomat.