The Biden administration on Friday accused Russia of planning a false flag operation to create a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine, CNN reports.
As negotiations between the US and Russia falter, a US official told CNN that intelligence shows that Russia prepositioned a group to conduct a false flag operation.
"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," National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday. "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."
The US has been negotiating with Russia but talks have seen little progress as Russia demands that Ukraine be barred from joining NATO.
The US believes that Russia could be preparing for an invasion that “may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes should diplomacy fail to meet their objectives,” an official told CNN. "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."
Ukraine also warns of attack:
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also said Friday that Russian special services are planning provocations against Russian forces in an effort to frame Ukraine.
The ministry said in a statement that "the military units of the aggressor country and its satellites receive orders to prepare for such provocations."
US officials say that Russia has also waged a propaganda campaign to emphasize narratives about Ukraine and Ukrainian militancy to Russian audiences ahead of a possible war.
"During December, Russian language content on social media covering all three of these narratives increased to an average of nearly 3,500 posts per day, a 200% increase from the daily average in November," an official told CNN.
Ukraine hit with cyberattack:
Ukraine’s government was hit with a massive cyberattack on Friday.
"As a result of a massive cyberattack, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other government agencies are temporarily down," Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said. "Our specialists have already started restoring the work of IT systems, and the cyberpolice has opened an investigation.”
The websites were hijacked with the same message that threatened Ukrainians.
"Ukrainian! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore them," the message said. "All information about you has become public, be afraid and wait for the worst. This is for you for your past, present and future. For Volhynia, for the OUN UIA [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists Ukrainian Insurgent Army], for Galicia, for Polesie and for historical lands.”