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US intelligence says Russia is sending agents to Ukraine to prepare for possible invasion

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US intelligence says Russia is sending agents to Ukraine to prepare for possible invasion

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U.S. intelligence officials have determined that a Russian effort is underway to create a pretext for its troops to invade Ukraine, the White House said Friday.

Biden administration press secretary Jen Psaki tells reporters that intelligence findings indicate Moscow has already pre-positioned agents to carry out “a false flag operation” in eastern Ukraine. .

She said Russia was also setting the stage through a social media disinformation campaign that portrays Ukraine as an aggressor plotting an imminent attack on Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine.

His comments came as Pentagon officials also said Russia sent undercover agents to Ukraine to prepare the ground for an invasion similar to the one that led to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Russia was “actively working to create the pretext for a possible invasion – an attack on Ukraine.”

The scheme, he said, will likely involve false flag operations in which undercover Russian agents carry out attacks targeting Russian speakers in Ukraine.

The aim would be to make the attacks appear as if they were carried out by Ukrainian forces, in order to create momentum for Russian military troops to then enter Ukraine and defend the Russian-speaking population.

“They’ve already started fabricating Ukrainian provocations in state and social media to try to pre-justify some sort of pretext for an incursion,” Kirby said.

The claims of possible false flag operations followed a large-scale cyberattack on Friday against several Ukrainian government websites. It is not immediately clear who carried out the cyberattack, although US intelligence has previously blamed such actions on Moscow.

Russian officials have denied claims that Moscow was preparing the ground for an invasion. A Kremlin spokesman told Agence France-Presse on Friday that the allegation was unfounded.

Mr Kirby said the operatives currently in Ukraine are likely a mix of military troops, intelligence operatives and possibly mercenary organisations, such as the paramilitary group Wagner, which has links to the Russian government.

“We’ve seen this stuff before outside of Russia,” the Pentagon spokesman said. “When there is no real crisis to meet their needs, they invent one. So we’re monitoring that. »

The Pentagon has yet to confirm whether Friday’s cyberattack on Ukrainian agencies was linked to a future Russian invasion. “It’s too early to tell if this is part and parcel of a false flag operation,” Kirby said. “We’re not at the point of attribution right now.”

About 200 U.S. Army soldiers with the Florida National Guard are in Ukraine on an “advise and assist” mission to the Ukrainian military. Mr. Kirby did not say whether they would be withdrawn in the event of a Russian invasion.

“Force protection remains paramount in our minds,” he said. “We will take all appropriate and appropriate decisions to ensure our people are safe.”

While the Biden administration has ruled out US military force in the event of a Russian invasion, US officials have said the consequences for Moscow would be severe if it invades.

At the Pentagon, Mr. Kirby said it was not too late for Moscow to step back. “We don’t think Mr. Putin has made a final decision yet,” he said. “As long as that is the case, we still believe there is time and space for diplomacy.”

• This article is based in part on press service reports.

US intelligence says Russia is sending agents to Ukraine to prepare for possible invasion

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