National Security

US intelligence suggests ‘false flag’ operation Russia could use to justify attack on Ukraine: report

The United States has received new intelligence suggesting that a “false flag” operation by Russia is in the works to justify an invasion into Ukraine, The Washington Post reported, citing numerous officials from the U.S. and Europe.

The officials who spoke to the newspaper said that operation’s nature and timing was not clear, but noted that it was separate from another alleged operation that the Russian government considered that involved creating a fake video portraying a fictitious attack on Russia to serve a pretext for an invasion into Ukraine.

The new intelligence on the “false flag” was discussed during a meeting on Thursday evening in the White House Situation Room, according to the officials who spoke with the Post. The sources noted the information was part of the reason why the U.S. government called for Americans to leave Ukraine.

The newspaper noted that a “false flag” operation was noted by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan during a briefing with reporters on Friday.

“The last point that I would make — and I know this has been the subject of a fair amount of back-and-forth between the administration and the press over the course of the past week: We are firmly convinced that the Russians, should they decide to move forward with an invasion, are looking hard at the creation of a pretext — a false-flag operation — something that they generate and try to blame on the Ukrainians as a trigger for military action,” he said.

“And we are calling that out publicly because we do believe that if Russia chooses to do that, they should be held to account; the world should not believe that a false-flag operation that they conducted is a legitimate casus belli for going into Ukraine,” he continued. 

A spokesperson for the Pentagon referred The Hill back to Sullivan’s comments Friday in addition to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby’s press briefings from this week. The State Department also referred The Hill to Sullivan’s remarks.

The report comes as U.S. officials warned that a Russian invasion in Ukraine could occur at any time in the near future. Sullivan told reporters on Friday that the invasion could start “any day.”

“It could begin any day now, and it could occur before the Olympics have ended,” he said. The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics end on Feb. 20. 

“We can’t pinpoint the day at this point, and we can’t pinpoint the hour, but what we can say is that there is a credible prospect that a Russian military action would take place even before the end of the Olympics,” he added later.

The Russian military has engaged in a buildup of over 100,000 troops at its border with the former Soviet state. The U.S. along with its Western allies have participated in talks with Russian officials over the country’s demands in exchange for deescalation, though little progress has been made. 

The Hill has reached out to the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. for comment. 

Updated 10:57 a.m.

Tags invasion Jake Sullivan Jake Sullivan John Kirby Olympics Russia Ukraine
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