US officials accuse Russia of preparing ‘false flag’ to justify invading Ukraine

US officials believe Russian intelligence services are preparing to fabricate a justification for invading Ukraine

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Friday 04 February 2022 10:13
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‘Swift and severe consequences’ for Russia if they invade Ukraine, warns US Secretary of State
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US officials have accused the Russian government of planning a “false flag” attack against Russian troops to justify an invasion in Ukraine.

The allegations include producing fake video evidence of atrocities supposedly being committed against Russian-speaking Ukrainians in eastern regions of the country where Russia has been supporting separatist movements.

According to Axios, US officials said Russian forces typically begin planning for such propaganda operations “several weeks before a military invasion”, just as they did before the 2014 invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Russian intelligence services are “intimately involved” in such planning, they said.

The accusations by US officials are the second such set of allegations made against Russia in recent weeks.

On 14 January, officials accused Russia of “laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating a pretext for invasion, including through sabotage activities and information operations, by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine”.

This time, the preparations alleged include a video featuring Turkish-made drones or other western-supplied military material “as a means to implicate Nato in the attack”.

This would give Russian president Vladimir Putin "the spark he needs to initiate and justify military operations against Ukraine”, a US official has claimed.

"This is one of a number of options Russia has developed, and we are publicising it in the hopes that it dissuades Russia from its intended course of action," the official added.

Russian military exercises have been taking place in Belarus as tensions mount

Speaking on MSNBC on Thursday afternoon, deputy White House national security advisor Jon Finer said publicising the classified information “may make it more difficult for this exact plan to be executed”.

“Even if it doesn't prevent this plan from being executed, we believe that after the fact there will be significant disinformation deployed by the Russian government to say that they had to take military action for a reason like this," Mr Finer said.

"Putting this information out in advance will make it much harder for them to win the argument and easier for us to keep our partners and allies aligned, which is an important part of our strategy in this entire situation”.

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