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US accuses Russia of plotting ‘false flag’ operation in Ukraine

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The White House has accused Russia of sending saboteurs into eastern Ukraine to stage an incident that could serve as a pretext for an invasion if Moscow’s security demands are not met.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on January 14 that US intelligence indicates that Russia “has pre-positioned a group of operatives to conduct a false flag operation in Ukraine. The operatives are trained in urban warfare and use explosives to commit acts of sabotage.

Our intelligence indicates that Russian influencers are already beginning to fabricate Ukrainian provocations in state and social media to justify Russian intervention…”

The comments come after a week of high-stakes talks in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna between US and European officials with Russian diplomats that have essentially demanded a large-scale overhaul of Europe’s security structure.

Russia has deployed nearly 100,000 troops to areas along Ukraine’s borders, prompting warnings from Western intelligence officials that Moscow may be on the verge of carrying out another invasion of Ukraine.

“Our intelligence 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,” Psaki said.

“The Russian military plans to start these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February,” she added.

In Moscow, the US intelligence assessment, which had been announced earlier by unnamed US officials, was derided.

“So far, all these statements are unfounded and have not been confirmed by anything,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by state news agencies.

As the United States and its Western allies sounded the alarm over a massive Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, Russia has demanded written assurances that the NATO military alliance will not admit any former Soviet states such as Ukraine, among other demands.

Washington and its NATO allies have held three rounds of talks with Russia in an attempt to defuse the situation, but while expressing their openness to dialogue, they have made it clear that NATO’s open door policy for states sovereigns is non-negotiable.

Moscow, which has denied plans to invade Ukraine, said it could not wait indefinitely for a written Western response to its security demands.

We have lost patience, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at his annual foreign policy conference on January 14. We are awaiting a written response from our Western colleagues on our proposals.

We are convinced that, if there is a will to compromise, mutually acceptable solutions can always be found, he said.

Photo Gallery: Boots on the Ground: Satellite Images Reveal Russian Troop Buildup Near Ukraine Border and in Crimea

Amid fears of a possible invasion, Ukrainian officials say more than 90,000 Russian troops have been deployed along its border, including on the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized by force from Ukraine. in 2014. Maxar Technologies, a satellite imagery company, released photographs that show the buildup of Russian troops.

Earlier, a US official who discussed the alleged false flag operation said US intelligence was based on intercepted communications and observations of people’s movements.

Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists who control parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions has killed more than 13,200 people since April 2014.

Several Ukrainian government websites were attacked by hackers overnight, disabled and defaced with poorly worded cybergraffiti that threatened Ukraine’s sovereignty. As of the evening of January 14, more than 12 hours after its outage, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and several others remained down.

Ukraine’s security service said in a statement late January 14 that its criminal investigation revealed some signs of the involvement of “hacker groups associated with the special services of the Russian Federation.”

No group took responsibility for the attack, but Russian hackers linked to Moscow have been repeatedly accused of computer attacks on Ukrainian government websites and infrastructure in the past.

US officials have threatened Russia with “massive and severe” sanctions and other measures if another invasion of Ukraine occurs. Among the publicly announced measures are the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT global banking messaging system and major new restrictions on the export of technology to Russia.

New legislation pending in the US Senate threatens new restrictions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, as well as personal sanctions against President Vladimir Putin in the event of an invasion.

With reports from The New York Times and Reuters

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