The US has accused Russia of planning covert operations, including sabotage, in eastern Ukraine to create a “pretext for invasion”
The White House claimed it had intelligence indicating that Russia had “pre-positioned” operatives to conduct a “false-flag” operation in eastern Ukraine.
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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “The operatives are trained in urban warfare and in using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy-forces”
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France 24 reports: Russia has amassed tanks, artillery and tens of thousands of troops near the border of Ukraine as it demands guarantees that its neighbour will never join NATO – which on Friday announced new cyber cooperation with Kyiv in response to the attack.
Detailing intelligence findings, the White House said that Russia was “laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating a pretext for invasion” by blaming Ukraine.
“We have information that indicates Russia has already prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine,” said Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary.
“The operatives are trained in urban warfare and in using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces.”
US intelligence believes Russia could begin the operations several weeks before a military invasion, which could start between mid-January and mid-February, Psaki said.
Russia has denied plans to invade Ukraine and quickly dismissed the latest US statements, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling them “unfounded”.
With the world on alert for any signs of invasion, government sites across Ukraine including of the emergencies ministry, education ministry and cabinet went down early Friday.
Ukraine was still conducting an investigation but preliminary indications suggested that “hacker groups associated with the Russian secret services may stand behind today’s massive cyberattack on government websites”, foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Twitter.
The hacked websites displayed a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish saying, “All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect the worst.”
But Ukraine’s SBU security service said access to most sites was restored within hours, and preliminary information showed that no personal information was leaked.