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US fears Russia is planning false flag operation in Ukraine | News | DW

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US President Joe Biden’s administration believes Moscow is planning a false flag operation in eastern Ukraine to justify an invasion, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.

Psaki said that, according to US intelligence, Russian agents were already in position and that Moscow had started a disinformation campaign on social media.

The aim is to portray Kiev as the aggressor to justify a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the press secretary added.

“We fear that the Russian government is preparing for an invasion into Ukraine which could lead to widespread human rights violations and war crimes if diplomacy fails to achieve its goals,” Psaki said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the reports, saying they were based on “baseless” information, TASS news agency reported. Moscow has denied accusations of invading Ukraine.

No solution in sight

Some 100,000 Russian troops have massed near Ukraine’s eastern border, an area where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting the central government since 2014, when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

On Thursday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Russia was already preparing the ground for an invasion, planning “sabotage activities and information operations” to accuse Kiev of fomenting the hostilities.

He also pointed out that similar tactics had been used before Russia’s invasion of Crimea, fomenting a narrative of ethnic Russians in Ukraine being targeted by ultra-nationalist extremists with US backing.

This time, US intelligence noted how Russian social media influencers highlighted human rights abuses in Ukraine and blamed the West for rising tensions, the report said. ‘Associated Press.

Andras Racz, senior researcher for the German Council on Foreign Relations’ security and defense program, told DW that he sees the possibility of a false flag operation as a real possibility.

“Using false flag operations as a tool and as a pretext for war would indeed not be foreign to Russian warfare practices,” Racz said.

Provocation fears

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine flared up further on Friday after several Ukrainian government websites were hacked. Ukrainian officials said it was still too early to say who was behind the hacks, but also pointed out that Russia has a history of carrying out cyberattacks in Ukraine.

“We are in contact with the Ukrainians and have offered our support as Ukraine investigates the impact and the nature and recovers from the incidents. We have no attribution at this time,” a doorman said. word of the White House Security Council.

Attempts to ease tensions through direct dialogue between Western and Russian diplomats this week have failed.

Saying the standoff with Russia is ‘more serious than anything we’ve seen in recent years’, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg expressed concern that the diplomatic failures would not end not always through cyberattacks.

“Some say the cyberattack could be the prelude to other activities, military activities,” he said.

Previous Russian cyberattacks on Ukraine have disrupted elections, crippled its power grid and caused billions in damage.

Diplomatic efforts to continue

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht on Friday warned Moscow of the consequences of a possible invasion of Ukraine, but stressed that: “We must exhaust all options to resolve this conflict.”

That sentiment was echoed by the meeting of other EU foreign ministers in the French city of Brest on Friday.

“The European Union is certainly ready to respond directly to any aggression, but our preference (…) is for dialogue and negotiations,” said Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will have the opportunity to present the EU’s view on the lingering tensions during visits to Kyiv and Moscow next week.

But after three days of intense meetings with the United States, NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the White House said it was time for the Kremlin to choose whether or not to press ahead. other talks.

“If they decide they want to engage in diplomatic conversations and talks, we are very open to that and we hope they will. But at the end of the day, it is a choice that they have to do,” White House press secretary PSAki said.

Still a chance to negotiate?

However, foreign relations specialist Racz said he was “not at all optimistic whether there is still room for diplomacy” and questioned the seriousness of Moscow’s diplomatic efforts.

“The Russian proposal [for security guarantees from NATO], which Moscow intended to serve as a guideline for this week’s negotiations, were clearly a failure for both NATO and the United States,” Racz told DW. “And Russia has been aware of this ever since. very beginning.”

DW’s international affairs editor Richard Walker said it would be difficult to find a solution in light of the Kremlin’s demands on Ukraine.

“For Vladimir Putin, making these demands public and then going back on them without losing face is going to be difficult,” Walker said. “It’s going to be the art of diplomacy in the coming weeks for the West, to try to persuade them to do just that.”

from/sms (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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