Russia is preparing to create a pretext for a broader invasion of Ukraine, and has already hired agents to conduct a “pseudo-science operation,” officials in Washington warned, echoing Kiev’s comments.
Ukrainian military intelligence said on Friday that Russian special forces were preparing for “provocations” against Russian soldiers stationed in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria in order to accuse Kiev.
US officials expressed the same sentiments. “Russian actors have already begun to fabricate Ukrainian provocations in state and social media to justify Russian intervention and sow divisions in Ukraine,” a US official told Reuters news agency on Friday.
Moscow has already sent agents trained in urban warfare who can use explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russian proxy forces in eastern Ukraine — and blame Kiev — if Russian President Vladimir Putin decides he wants to go ahead with the invasion, a US official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. his identity.
Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Friday that Moscow had denied the comments, calling them “baseless.”
Russia wants written security guarantees
Russia has massed about 100,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian border, and diplomatic talks to try to resolve the crisis have not been fruitful.
Russia is asking the United States and NATO to provide written guarantees that the alliance will not expand eastward. Washington described these demands as not parties, but said it was ready to negotiate with Moscow about possible future deployments of offensive missiles in Ukraine and to place restrictions on US and NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe.
A senior official in Kiev warned Friday that the current crisis is raising questions about the “life and death” of Ukraine. Andrei Yermak, chief of staff of President Volodymyr Zelensky, added that most Ukrainians would defend the country.
Yermak said Friday that Zelensky had proposed a meeting with US President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin to discuss rising security concerns.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow was not ready to wait forever for the United States and NATO to respond to its security demands and wanted a detailed written response to each Russian proposal.
Lavrov said President Putin could then make a decision once Moscow received a point-by-point response to its proposals and counter-proposals from the West.
As negotiations falter, Ukrainian government websites came under a massive cyber attack on Friday.
The websites of the country’s Cabinet, seven ministries, the Treasury, the National Emergency Service and the State Services website, where electronic passports of Ukrainians and vaccination certificates are stored, were temporarily unavailable.
The sites contained a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, stating that the personal data of Ukrainians had been leaked into the public domain. The Ukrainian government denied this, saying that no personal data had been leaked.
“Be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future,” the letter was partially read.
Washington and Kiev did not directly blame Russia for the cyber attack. But they said Russia has participated in cyber attacks in the past and that online disinformation campaigns from Moscow are on the rise.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Moscow’s current activities are similar to what the Kremlin did in the lead-up to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea that has been under Ukrainian jurisdiction since 1954.
Psaki said Friday, due to what she called “subversive activities” and “media operations,” that a full military invasion of Ukraine could begin between mid-January and mid-February.
The 2014 Crimean crisis came at a time when Ukraine was increasingly looking to strengthen ties with Europe and the West. During that period, Russia ramped up propaganda that Ukrainian Russians were being repressed in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow has long been accused of using disinformation as a tactic against adversaries in conjunction with military operations and cyber attacks. In 2014, Russian state media attempted to discredit the pro-Western protests in Kiev as “stirred by the United States in cooperation with Ukrainian fascist nationalists” and promoted narratives about Crimea’s historical ties with Moscow, according to a report from Stanford University’s Internet Observatory.
These activities are now intensifying, Psaki said. “Russian officials and influencers are confirming narratives about the deterioration of human rights in Ukraine and the hardening of Ukrainian leaders,” she said. She added that Russian social media accounts blame the West for escalating tension and highlighting humanitarian issues in Ukraine.
Psaki said the US tracked nearly 3,500 social media posts per day confirming these accounts in December, a 200 percent increase from the daily average in November.
With tensions rising and the threat of war looming, Moscow has warned Washington that it will not rule out the possibility of sending its military assets to Latin America if the United States does not halt military activities on Russia’s doorstep.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan denied comments about a possible Russian deployment in Cuba and Venezuela, calling them “loud in public comments.”