The official mentioned the US has proof that the operatives are educated in city warfare and in utilizing explosives to perform acts of sabotage in opposition to Russia’s personal proxy forces.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby mentioned the Defense Department has credible data indicating Russia has “prepositioned a group of operatives” to execute “an operation designed to look like an attack on them or Russian-speaking people in Ukraine” so as to create a motive for a possible invasion.

The allegation echoed a press release launched by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense on Friday, which mentioned that Russian particular companies are preparing provocations in opposition to Russian forces in an try to body Ukraine. National safety adviser Jake Sullivan hinted on the intelligence throughout a briefing with reporters on Thursday.

“Our intelligence community has developed information, which has now been downgraded, that Russia is laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating the pretext for an invasion,” Sullivan mentioned on Thursday. “We saw this playbook in 2014. They are preparing this playbook again.”

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry mentioned in a press release on Friday that “the military units of the aggressor country and its satellites receive orders to prepare for such provocations.”

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, denied that Moscow was preparing for provocations in Ukraine.

“So far, all these statements have been unfounded and have not been confirmed by anything,” Peskov mentioned.

The US intelligence discovering comes after every week’s price of diplomatic conferences between Russian and Western officers over Russia’s amassing of tens of 1000’s of troops alongside Ukraine’s border. But the talks failed to obtain any breakthroughs, as Russia wouldn’t commit to de-escalating and American and NATO officers mentioned Moscow’s calls for — together with that NATO by no means admit Ukraine into the alliance — had been non-starters.

A quantity of Ukraine’s governmental web sites had been hit by a cyberattack on Friday, a improvement European officers warned would ratchet up tensions over Ukraine even additional.

‘We noticed this playbook’

The US official mentioned that the Biden administration believes Russia may very well be preparing for an invasion into Ukraine “that may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes should diplomacy fail to meet their objectives.”

“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 mentioned. “We saw this playbook in 2014 with Crimea.”

Kirby mentioned that Putin is probably going instantly conscious of Russian false-flag operatives that may very well be the pretext for an operation in Ukraine.

“If past is prologue, it is difficult to see that these kinds of activities could be, would be done without the knowledge if not the imprimatur of the very senior levels of the Russian government,” Kirby advised reporters Friday.

Cyberattack hits Ukraine government websites

The US has additionally seen Russian affect actors start to prime Russian audiences for an intervention, the official mentioned, together with by emphasizing narratives in regards to the deterioration of human rights in Ukraine and elevated militancy of Ukrainian leaders.

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

The US, NATO and European officers held high-stakes conferences this week with Russian officers. At the tip of the three conferences on Thursday, either side got here away with a pessimistic outlook. Russia’s deputy international minister advised the talks had reached a “dead-end” and noticed no motive to proceed them, whereas a senior US official warned that the “drumbeat of war was sounding loud” following the diplomatic classes.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov mentioned Friday that Russia believes NATO will enhance its exercise alongside its border with Ukraine if Moscow does not obey the West’s calls for.

“While our proposals are aimed at reducing the military confrontation, de-escalating the overall situation in Europe, exactly the opposite is happening in the West. NATO members are building up their strength and aviation. In the territories that are directly adjacent to Ukraine, on the Black Sea, the scale of exercises has increased many times recently,” Lavrov mentioned.

Ukraine authorities web sites hit by cyberattack

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has invited President Joe Biden and Putin to maintain three-way talks to focus on the safety scenario, mentioned Zelensky aide Andriy Yermak, in accordance to Ukrainian state media outlet Ukrinform.

On Friday, a quantity of Ukrainian authorities web sites, together with its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had been targeted in a cyberattack with threatening textual content that warned Ukrainians to “be afraid and wait for the worst.” Ukraine’s authorities mentioned that it appeared Russia was behind the assault.
Tensions are high on Ukraine's border with Russia. Here's what you need to know

A US National Security Council official mentioned the President Joe Biden had been briefed on the assault. The official mentioned the US didn’t have an attribution for the assault but however would “provide Ukraine with whatever support it needs to recover.”

The Pentagon mentioned that it was too quickly to attribute the assault, although Kirby famous, “This is of a piece of the same kind of playbook we’ve seen from Russia in the past.”

The European Union’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell condemned the cyberattack, warning it contributes to the “already tense situation” within the area.

When requested if Russian governmental or non-governmental actors had been behind the assaults, Borrell responded that though he did not need to “point fingers,” there was “a certain probability as to where they came from.”

NCS’s Michael Conte, Katharina Krebs, James Frater, Joseph Ataman, Anna Chernova and Niamh Kennedy contributed to this report.


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