US intelligence says Russia has prepared a false flag operation to invade Ukraine

U.S. intelligence findings point to Russia having prepared a false flag operation to invade Ukraine.

“We do have information that indicates that Russia is already working actively to create a pretext for a potential invasion, for a move on Ukraine,” Pentagon press secretary John KirbyJohn KirbyUS sends aircraft carrier group to Mediterranean as Russia threat looms Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine Overnight Defense & National Security — White House raises new alarm over Russia MORE told reporters on Friday. 

Kirby’s comments came shortly after the plans for the operation were confirmed by a U.S. official, who said Moscow was laying the groundwork for accusing Ukraine of preparing an “imminent attack” against Russian forces.

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“The Russian military plans to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February,” the official said. “We saw this playbook in 2014 with Crimea.”

The accusation from the U.S. comes after a week of diplomatic engagement between the U.S., its European allies and Russia, which ended on Thursday with no major breakthroughs. Moscow hasn’t directly committed to engaging in any future dialogue.

Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s border, sparking fears that Moscow may be planning to invade its neighbor in a manner similar to when it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

President BidenJoe BidenNew York woman arrested after allegedly spitting on Jewish children Former Sen. Donnelly confirmed as Vatican ambassador Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE has warned Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinUkrainian president praises Biden for reaffirming US support The pitfalls of Russia's plan to rewrite history in Ukraine Kazakhstan's crackdown is a frightening formula for authoritarians MORE that Moscow would face serious economic sanctions if Russia were to invade Ukraine. 

Moscow, however, has repeatedly denied any intentions of invading Ukraine.

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National security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanWhite House says Russia could launch attack in Ukraine 'at any point' Blinken stresses 'unshakable' US commitment to Ukraine in call with Russian counterpart Texas hostage-taker was known to British security officials MORE told reporters on Thursday that the threat of a second invasion was "high" and said the U.S. would have details on “what we see as this potential laying of a pretext” to share with the press.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also released a statement on Friday accusing Russia of plotting to provoke its own forces and place the blame on Kyiv, adding “the military units of the aggressor country and its client states receive orders to prepare for such provocations.”

As part of the false flag plans, Washington has information indicating that Moscow has prepositioned a group of operatives who are trained in urban warfare and using explosives to carry out “acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces," the official said.

The United States' information also indicates that Russian influence actors are starting to fabricate Ukrainian provocations on in state and social media sites to justify a Russian intervention.

The influence actors are pushing narratives about human rights deteriorating in Ukraine, blaming the West for escalating tensions, and “promoting Russian patriotism to encourage domestic support for military action,” the statement said.

Updated at 1:47 p.m.