US says Russia has a disguised plan for the invasion

WASHINGTON – The United States obtained intelligence about a Russian plan to fabricate an invasion of Ukraine using a fake video that built on recent disinformation campaigns, according to officials. senior government officials and others notified of this document.

The plan – which the US hopes to derail by making it public – includes staging and filming a fabricated attack by the Ukrainian military on Russian territory or on Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine. .

Officials say Russia intends to use the video to accuse Ukraine of genocide of Russian-speaking people. It would then use outrage over the video to justify an attack or ask separatist leaders in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine to invite Russia to intervene.

The officials would not release any direct evidence of the Russian plan or specify how they learned of it, saying doing so would compromise their sources and methods. But a recent Russian disinformation campaign focused on false accusations of genocide and efforts in the Russian Parliament. recognition of secessionist governments in Ukraine lent reliable intelligence.

If implemented, the Russian operation would be an extension of a propaganda theme which US intelligence officials and outside experts have said Moscow has been promoting on social media, on conspiracy websites and with state-controlled media since November.

Officials said the video was meticulously crafted with plans for graphic imagery of the aftermath of a staged explosion, littered with corpses and footage of destroyed locations. They said the video was also edited to include fake Ukrainian military equipment, Turkish-made drones and actors playing Russian-speaking mourners.

US officials would not say exactly who in Russia was planning the operation, but a senior official said the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence arm, was deeply involved in the effort.

Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, discussed some details of the planned video at his daily news conference on Thursday, though he said evidence of the conspiracy was still being analyzed. category to protect American sources.

“The production of this propaganda video is one of a number of options that the Russian government is developing as a false pretext to initiate and potentially justify military aggression against Ukraine,” said Mr. .

A British official said their government had carried out its own intelligence analysis and was highly confident that Russia was planning to create a pretext to blame Ukraine for an attack. Another British official, Foreign Affairs Secretary Liz Truss, said the intelligence was “clear and shocking evidence of Russia’s unprovoked aggression and covert activities aimed at destabilizing Ukraine”.

“The UK and our allies will continue to expose Russia’s acts of sabotage and propaganda and call it what it is,” Ms Truss said in a statement.

Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, denied the US accusations in comments made by Russian news agencies. “This is not the first report of its kind,” he said. “Similar things have been stated before. But nothing ever happened to them. ”

Although it is unclear whether senior Russian officials approved the operation, the plan has gone a long way and the United States has high confidence that it is being taken seriously, officials said. Russian officials found dead bodies for use in the video, discussed actors playing mourners and planned how to make military equipment appear to be supplied by Ukraine or NATO. .

While the plan may sound far-fetched, US officials have said they believe it could work to set the stage for a Russian military campaign – an outcome they say they hope will less likely to happen by making the effort public.

Prominent intelligence has been declassified, in the hope of both falsifying the plot and convincing allies of the seriousness of Russia’s plan. Officials interviewed for this article requested anonymity to discuss declassified but sensitive intelligence before it was made public.

Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, and other senior administration officials briefed members of Congress about the document on Thursday. Details of the information have also been shared with allies, as the United States and Britain promote a kind of intelligence diplomacy.

In recent weeks, both Washington and London have outlined elements of Moscow’s war plans, highlighting army construction plan, expose a plot to sabotage false flags and reveal the Russian plan to form a friendly government in Kyiv.

Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the disclosure of the plots by the United States and Britain was seen by Russia as an important development. He said that the release of information will inform the Ukrainian people and will help the world make different, more accurate judgments about Russia’s actions.

“Too often, we come after the fact and say it was a false flag operation,” Mr. Warner said. “By forewarning, it reduces Russia’s credibility and its ability to use something like that as an excuse.”

The US and British strategy was to convince allies that Russia was not slow and had real war plans that it could put into effect. The releases are also aimed at forcing Russia to give up and re-plan, further delaying any plans for invasion.

According to diplomats, the longer the international community can delay President Vladimir V. Putin’s decision on whether to approve a military operation against Ukraine, the more likely he will be Reconsider your plan.

Some US and British officials argue that Putin underestimated the number of casualties his troops would incur in any direct invasion of Ukraine.

The intelligence diplomacy push is partly based on Britain’s effort to respond forcefully to the Russian nerve agent attack in Britain in 2018. The British government has made public information about the incident. Russia’s participation and privately share other intelligence because it prompted allies to expel Russian diplomats in response.

After the lawmakers were briefed on Thursday, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Russia was in the process of producing the film and that “evidence fake” other that Ukraine is doing something to provoke Moscow. It is important for the world to understand that this is a misguided operation to try to excuse them during an invasion, he said.

Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, said: He said that if Russia tries to “make up some excuse, it will be rejected by the global community.”

The move to go public with the plans comes as the Duma, Russia’s lower house, begins considering legislation that would recognize separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine as independent territories, just as Moscow has recognized areas controlled by the separatists. Russian occupation of Georgia.

If Russia’s parliament recognizes Ukraine’s Donbas region as an independent state, a Moscow-appointed leader of that breakaway country could ask for help from Mr. Putin. The President of Russia has argued many times that in such a case an intervention would be in accordance with international law and precedent set by the United States.

American officials believe that the plans for the video included a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone used by the Ukrainian Army.

In October, after an artillery attack killed a Ukrainian soldier, The Ukrainian military used one of the drones to launch a counterattack on a howitzer used by Russian-led separatists. Russia scrambles for jets and the situation escalates.

Russian disinformation in recent weeks has falsely accused NATO of planning an invasion of Ukraine or an intervention there. Emphasizing the presence of weapons by Turkey, a NATO ally, would allow the Russians to accuse the alliance of increasing tensions in the conflict and possibly leading to the deaths of speakers. Russian.

The The draft law is under consideration in Russia will recognize what Moscow calls the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. Russia considered recognizing governments in the separatist-controlled region in 2014 but ultimately refused.

This proposal has recently been revived by members of the Communist Party, the second largest faction in the Russian Duma. Russian lawmakers pushing for the law argue that Ukraine is planning an attack to reassert control over the region. Russian lawmakers argue that if that happens, Russian-speaking residents will be denied basic rights.

Ukraine’s crackdown on Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine is a common topic in Russian state media and websites controlled by Russian intelligence agencies. But the reality is that language is not the hard line in Ukraine that Moscow suggests.

Emily Cochrane reporting contributions from Washington, and Anton Troianovski from Moscow.

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