On Friday, the Biden administration revealed it has information indicating Russia has planted operatives in eastern Ukraine to conduct a false-flag operation in order to provoke a Russian intervention.
CNN, which obtained the news from a U.S. official, added that the official claimed the U.S. “has evidence that the operatives are trained in urban warfare and in using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces,” adding, “The Russian military plans to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February. We saw this playbook in 2014 with Crimea.”
On Thursday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan asserted, “Our intelligence community has developed information, which has now been downgraded, that Russia is laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating the pretext for an invasion. We saw this playbook in 2014. They are preparing this playbook again and we will have, the administration will have, further details on what we see as this potential laying of the pretext to share with the press over the course of the next 24 hours.”
Asked if Russia was “making the case” to invade Ukraine. Sullivan answered:
I’m not going to put myself in the head of the Russians. As you see from their public comments, they’ve been — they’ve said many different things. Some of them contradictory. They’ve — different speakers over the course of this week have given both hopeful signs and deeply pessimistic signs. You’ll have to ask them where they stand in respect to their positioning.
Another reporter asked, “Ambassador Michael Carpenter is offering a different assessment. I’m sure you heard him say that, ‘The drumbeat of war is sounding loud, and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill. So, do you agree with that or disagree?”
“Well, the Russians have put tens of thousands of troops in and around Ukraine and occupied territory relative to Ukraine,” Sullivan replied. “So, it is certainly the case that the threat of military invasion is high.”
On Friday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry stated that “the military units of the aggressor country and its satellites receive orders to prepare for such provocations.” Also on Friday, hackers gained access to approximately 70 Ukrainian government websites. Ukraine authorities suspected that Russia is to blame for the attack.
“As a result of a massive cyber attack, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other government agencies are temporarily down,” said Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry. “Our specialists have already started restoring the work of IT systems, and the cyberpolice has opened an investigation.”
The New York Times reported, “The attack came within hours of the conclusion of talks this week between Russia and the United States and NATO in Europe that were intended to find a diplomatic resolution after Russia massed tens of thousands of troops near the border with Ukraine. Moscow has demanded sweeping security concessions, including a promise not to accept Ukraine into the NATO alliance.”