The US has information that Russia is planning a ‘false flag’ operation on its own troops in eastern Ukraine to create a pretext for invasion.
The government also believes that Russia is mounting a social media disinformation campaign to portray Ukraine as the aggressor.
The update, which made the prospect of military conflict more immediate, came as Ukrainian government websites were taken offline in a “massive” cyberattack, talks between Washington and Moscow collapsed and Russia held a combat-readiness inspection of their troops.
The United States has evidence that agents trained in urban warfare and sabotage will carry out these attacks on Russian proxy forces, an official told CNN on Friday.
“The Russian military plans to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February,” the official said.
‘We saw this scenario in 2014 with Crimea.’
Details emerged as Russia conducted rapid combat-readiness inspections of its troops on Friday and when several prominent Ukrainian government websites were taken offline on Friday, authorities said, in a sweeping cyberattack.
Russian tanks from the Novorossiysk Guards mountain formation took part in maneuvers on Friday, further raising temperatures along the border with Ukraine, where 100,000 Russian troops have gathered
Across the dividing line, a military man takes position in a ditch on the dividing line near the village of Yasne, about 21 miles southwest of Donetsk, which is controlled by Russian-backed separatists, in eastern Ukraine, Friday, January 14 . , 2022
A fighter jet takes off, according to images released by the Russian Defense Ministry. Amid concerns over Russia’s troop build-up, Russia says it is only up to Moscow where it moves its troops within its territory and they pose no external threat
The inspections came as several key Ukrainian government websites were taken offline on Friday, authorities said, in a sweeping cyberattack. Pictured: A laptop displays a warning message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, which appeared on the official website of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs after a massive cyberattack, in this image taken on January 14, 2022
The claim of a false flag operation echoes Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, which said Russian special services were preparing provocations against Russian forces to frame Ukraine.
And a day earlier, President Biden’s national security adviser said the US had intelligence that Russia was preparing a pretext for an invasion.
“Our intelligence community has developed information… that lays the groundwork for Russia to have the ability to devise a pretext for invasion, including through sabotage activities and intelligence operations, by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack on Russian troops in eastern Ukraine,” he told reporters at the White House
‘We saw this script in 2014. They’re making this script again.’
The White House said President Biden had informed about the cyber attack, which shut down a series of Ukrainian government websites.
Some showed messages that read, “Be afraid and expect the worst.”
A spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed details of a hack to AFP.
“As a result of a massive cyber attack, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other government agencies are temporarily down,” he says.
The ministry of education wrote on Facebook that its website was down due to an overnight “global (cyber) attack”.
A soldier from the Ukrainian Armed Forces walks on a front-line trench with Russian-backed separatists near the village of Luganske, in the Donetsk region. Kiev is on high alert since Russia moved 100,000 troops to the border last year
President Biden’s administration has repeatedly warned President Putin about further sanctions if his troops invade Ukraine. In return, Putin demands that NATO guarantee that Ukraine will not join the defense alliance
US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Michael Carpenter said the world was facing a “crisis in European security” after the latest round of talks Thursday.
The Cabinet website and the Ministry of Emergencies were also the target of the attack, with services later restored to the government site.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility and Kiev did not say who was responsible. Ukraine had blamed Russians with ties to the Kremlin for previous attacks.
According to Victor Zhora, deputy chairman of the State Department for Special Communications and Information Protection, about 70 websites of national and regional government agencies were targeted.
However, he stressed that no critical infrastructure was compromised and no personal data was leaked.
EU foreign affairs chief Joseph Borrell said Friday the bloc is mobilizing “all its resources” to help Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russia said it was running out of patience with its demand that NATO not expand eastward, closer to Russia.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Moscow would not wait indefinitely for the Western response and said he expects a response from the US and NATO next week.
“We are out of patience,” Lavrov said at a press conference.
“The West has been driven by hubris and has heightened tensions contrary to its obligations and common sense.”
It comes after a series of meetings between the two sides this week that failed to lead to a breakthrough. As a result, US officials have stepped up their warnings.
The US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said the result was a “crisis in European security.”
“The war drum is loud and the rhetoric has become quite shrill,” said Michael Carpenter.