Russia could invade Ukraine within a month: US intelligence

A BMP-2 amphibious infantry fighting vehicle during field firing drills ahead of the 78th birthday of the Guards Tank Corps of the Western Military District in the Golovenki Range, outside Moscow.

Sergei Bobylev | TASS | beautiful pictures

WASHINGTON – Intelligence agencies that monitor Russia’s cyber operations against Ukraine believe Russia’s operating pattern could signal a ground invasion of Ukraine within the next 30 days, the White House said on Thursday. Six.

The new timeline is the latest indication of how the Biden administration believes a Russian attack on Ukraine is possible, and its efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution have become urgent. how.

In response to questions from NBC at this week’s briefing, officials declined to say whether the United States would arm Ukrainian militias to fight the Russian invasion. But now they are signaling to the Russians that such a plan is being considered.

The United States has pledged to respond to any military incursion with unprecedented economic sanctions against members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. But that could trigger Moscow’s retaliatory moves against the West – up to and including cutting off the energy flowing from Russia to the rest of the world. According to experts, Russia is the largest supplier of oil, natural gas and coal to Europe.

A senior U.S. official and a former U.S. official confirmed to NBC News late Friday that the Biden administration is considering arming Ukrainian insurgents who will essentially be fighting duels. strike against Russian forces if Putin invades Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Territorial Self-Defense Forces, a military reserve of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, hold wooden replicas of Kalashnikov rifles, taking part in an exercise near Kiev on December 25, 2021.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | beautiful pictures

Speaking to reporters at the White House on Friday, press secretary Jen Psaki said US defense analysts first noticed a sharp increase in December in social media misinformation. coordinated through Russian-backed channels to destabilize the Ukrainian government.

“The Russian military plans to begin these operations weeks before launching a military invasion, possibly starting from mid-January to mid-February,” Psaki said.

The revelation comes just hours after Russian cyber agents disabled the websites of the Ukrainian government agency, replacing the agency’s homepage with a message addressed to all Ukrainians who have read it. , in part: “Fear and expect the worst for your past, present, and future.”

A laptop screen showing a warning message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, which appeared on the official website of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry after a major cyber attack, in this illustration shown Taken January 14, 2022.

Valentine Ogirenko | Reuters

The threat facing Ukraine is much more serious than a mere cyber attack. More than 200,000 Russian troops are currently stationed along the country’s border with Ukraine. Based on troop movements, US military analysts see the potential for various routes of invasion.

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U.S. intelligence agencies also believe that Russia “arranged in advance a task force to conduct a false flag operation in eastern Ukraine,” Psaki said. “The special forces are trained in urban warfare and the use of explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxies.”

Psaki said these Russian agents were part of a broader effort by Moscow to “create the basis for an artificial option for invading Ukraine,” Psaki said at her daily briefing.

As part of this false narrative, Psaki said Russian proxies on social media accused Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.

A Ukrainian soldier stands on the front lines at the industrial zone of the government-ruled town of Avdiyivka in the Donetsk region, Ukraine December 17, 2021.

Oleksandr Klymenko | Reuters

That way, if Russian special forces were prepared in advance to launch a stealthy attack on Russian-backed forces in Ukraine, Moscow could point to its earlier accusations and blame Ukraine for the incident. attack.

With a population of 44 million and a democratically elected government, post-Cold War Ukraine is a close ally of the United States and a long-term target of Moscow.

Negotiating with no results

The latest revelations from Psaki come later many high stakes discussion between American and European officials and their Russian counterparts.

For months, the Ukrainian government has warned the United States and its European allies that Russian troops are massing along the country’s eastern border. This buildup led to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, causing an international uproar and triggering a flurry of sanctions against Moscow.

The occupation of Crimea also removed Russia from the “Group of 8”, or G-8, which refers to the eight major global economies.

In recent weeks, the Biden administration has repeatedly warned that the United States is prepared to deliver larger economic countermeasures if Moscow continues to invade Ukraine.

“We stand ready and aligned with our partners and allies to impose those serious costs,” said Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel Alexander Fomin are seen in the NATO-Russia Council at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium January 12, 2022. Olivier Hoslet / Pool via REUTERS

Swimming Pool | REUTERS

Sherman, who began talks with his Russian counterpart on Monday in Geneva, told reporters during a conference call that the sanctions appeared aimed at key Russian financial institutions. and export controls for key industries.

Victoria Nuland, US Secretary of State for Political Affairs, said on Tuesday the Biden administration was coordinating measures with NATO allies, the Council of Europe as well as G-7 members.

Moscow defiant

Since 2002, Ukraine has sought to join NATO, in which Clause 5 of the group states that an attack on one member state is considered an attack on all of them.

Russian officials said at a news conference this week that it was “absolutely imperative to ensure that Ukraine never, never, becomes a member of NATO.”

“We need guarantees that are iron, waterproof, bulletproof and legally binding,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

The Russian president has previously asserted that despite the deployment of thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border, Moscow is not prepared for an invasion of its former Soviet neighbor. Putin has also defended Russia’s right to deploy troops on Russia’s borders and accused NATO of escalating tensions by building up troops in countries bordering Russia.

Russia has described NATO’s eastward expansion as a “red line” posing security threats to Moscow.

US President Joe Biden holds virtual talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid concerns in the West that Moscow is planning to attack Ukraine, during a secure video call from the Situation Room at the White House in Washington, US, on July 7 December 2021.

White House via Reuters

Last month, President Joe Biden spoke with Putin twice in the context of a significant increase in the Ukrainian army. On the first call on December 7, Biden refused accept Putin’s “red lines” for Ukraine.

In the most recent of the leaders call, on December 30, Biden reiterated his concerns and threatened again that his administration would “respond decisively” with allies and partners if Russia invaded Ukraine.

– CNBC’s Patti Domm contributed to this story.


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