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Russia accused of plotting 'false flag' attacks and framing Ukraine for pretext to invasion
15 January 2022, 15:03
Russia has been accused of putting together a "false flag" operation to give it a reason for invading Ukraine - and spark Europe's latest war.
US intelligence officials believe operatives are already in place to carry out the plan in eastern Ukraine, armed with explosives which would be used to sabotage pro-Russian forces there.
Moscow is also thought to be preparing a disinformation effort on social media which portrays Kiev as the aggressor, readying itself to assault the Kremlin-backed rebels, Washington said. British foreign secretary Liz Truss echoed the claims.
The accusation comes as high-stakes talks between the US and Russia over the crisis made little progress, while some 100,000 Russian troops are massed at the Ukrainian border.
Ms Truss tweeted: "Russia is waging a disinformation campaign intended to destabilise and justify an invasion of its sovereign neighbour Ukraine.
"Russia must halt its aggression, de-escalate and engage in meaningful talks."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: "We are concerned that the Russian government is preparing for an invasion in Ukraine that may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes should diplomacy fail to meet their objectives."
Russia is waging a disinformation campaign intended to destabilise and justify an invasion of its sovereign neighbour Ukraine— Liz Truss (@trussliz) January 15, 2022
Russia must halt its aggression, deescalate and engage in meaningful talks #StandWithUkraine
It was not revealed how much confidence the "false flag" assessment had from the US Government.
An anonymous American official said the intelligence was taken from communication intercepts and observations of people's movements.
President Joe Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said US spies have not yet made an assessment on whether the Russians have committed themselves to going over the border and sparking a full blown war.
But he said that Russia was plotting "sabotage activities and information operations" that would frame Ukraine as the instigator, and drew comparisons to the build up to when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, when Russia complained Ukraine's ethnic Russians in the east were being oppressed as Kiev sought closer ties with the West.
In talks, Moscow has demanded guarantees that Nato will not expand eastward, which the US rejected – though it said it will talk about future deployments of missiles in Ukraine and limiting military exercises in Eastern Europe.
Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov warned that his country has "run out of patience" and claimed the West "has been driven by hubris and has exacerbated tensions in violation of its obligations and common sense".