The United States maintains that Russia has an intelligence operations plan that would seek to establish pretexts for the initiation of military action
The United States accused Russia this Friday of having “prepositioned” agents in Ukraine to carry out an operation that could serve as “pretext for an invasion“.
“Russia lays the groundwork for the possibility of fabricating a pretext for an invasion, including through acts of sabotage and information operations, accusing Ukraine of planning an imminent attack on Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.a,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, detailing to the press information that Washington claims to have.
“The Russian army plans to start these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February,” he warned, estimating that such an attack could be accompanied by “widespread violations of human rights.” and war crimes” if diplomacy fails.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called the information “very credible.”
Kirby explained that these agents could come from Russian “intelligence services, security services and even the military.”
His forces are often “hybrid” to the point that “the boundaries are not necessarily very clear on who specifically they respond to in these more covert operations,” he argued.
Moscow flatly rejected these accusations: “Until now, all those statements have been unfounded and there is nothing to confirm them.“Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskiv was quoted as saying by the TASS agency.
A series of high-level meetings this week between the West and the Russians has not, for the time being, averted the risk of a new war in Ukraine.
Americans, Europeans and Ukrainians accuse Russia of having deployed nearly 100,000 soldiers on the border with a view to a possible invasion of the neighboring country. Moscow denies having any intention of doing so and affirms that it wants to defend itself from NATO’s eastward enlargement policy, which it considers a threat at its gates.
Psaki also referred to the wave of cyberattacks in Ukraine on Friday that took several government websites offline, saying the United States is “concerned about the large-scale cyberattack.”
“We have not determined who is responsible at this stage,” he said, however. He added that “Russian opinion leaders have already started creating Ukrainian provocations in public media and social media to justify Russian intervention and sow division in Ukraine.”
The Kiev government called Friday’s attack “massive” and said various state agencies and offices are “temporarily out of order,” but said no major damage had been caused. Authorship of the attack was not claimed.
One of the hypotheses being considered is that as a prelude to a military offensive, a major computer attack would be launched against Ukraine’s strategic infrastructures to disorient the authorities. Ukraine has been the target of several cyberattacks in recent years attributed to Russia.
Russian troops have been detected near the border with Ukraine.
Europe issues a harsh warning to Russia
The European foreign ministers warned this Friday with a robust response to Russia, in view of suspicions that the recent cyber attack against Ukraine could be the prologue of a military action.
The scenario is “more serious than anything we have seen in recent years,” Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told reporters.
European governments are holding out hope of convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin to abandon an alleged plan to invade Ukraine, but have begun preparing responses to Moscow.
“We have the will to deter Russia, and a convergence of analysis, a collective determination to act, and the desire to make the European Union heard” (EU), said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, during an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brest.
For his part, a European minister told the AFP agency that “sanctions are on the table. The conviction is that the risk of a Russian intervention in Ukraine is real and we must be prepared to react.”
“We should not take weeks to reach an agreement, as happened with the annexation of Crimea in 2014,” added that source.
That official added that further discussion is planned at the formal meeting of ministers scheduled for January 24 in Brussels.
The EU, to the aid of Ukraine
Russia has concentrated about 100,000 troops, in addition to tanks, drones Y artillery on the borders with Ukraine, and despite the fact that the government in Moscow denies preparing a military intervention, so far it has not been able to convince the Europeanss.
“Putin is a chess player,” noted a European leader. “It’s unpredictable, but [sabe que] now is the right time to act, because if you wait, Ukraine will be stronger.”
Ukraine suffered a major cyberattack on government websites on Friday, an episode that reinforced European concerns.
Swedish Chancellor Ann Linde said: “This is exactly the kind of thing we had warned about, and feared.”
This same Friday, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said that the EU was mobilizing “all its resources” to help Ukraine in the face of this attack.
According to a senior US official, Russia has “prepositioned” agents in Ukraine to carry out a sabotage operation that could serve as a “pretext for an invasion.” The Russian government rejected these accusations.
In any case, Europeans keep alive the hope of a path to dialogue and diplomacy.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will travel to Moscow next week for talks “at all levels.”
“Diplomacy, especially in times of crisis, is characterized by great perseverance, great patience and strong nerves,” he said.
Europe fears that the crisis between Ukraine and Russia will lead to a large-scale war.
Meanwhile, the Russian government does not seem very enthusiastic about the dialogue.
“I see no reason to come to the table [de negociaciones] in the next few days, to meet again and start the same discussions again” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
The senior official was referring to the deep differences observed during talks he had in Geneva with a US envoy, and during a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels.
Russia demands that NATO undertake legally and bindingly not to add Ukraine and Georgia, whose candidacies have been accepted by the military alliance.
In addition, it demands that the Atlantic Alliance withdraw its military personnel from countries that have since become members of that alliance since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In that scenario, the Europeans want to avoid what they call a “new Yalta agreement,” or an understanding between Moscow and Washington on European security.
Thus, the european credibility is in play.
Dependent on Russian gas and their economic relations with Russia, European countries have been reluctant to blindly follow the United States in the confrontation with Moscow.
At the Brest meeting, European officials praised the “absolutely perfect” coordination with the United States.
“The Russians have tried to divide us, to pretend that the European Union does not exist. But the Americans did not join that gameBorrell said.
For this reason, the American pressure for generalized sanctions divides the EU.
“The credibility of the Europeans depends on their ability to adopt strong sanctions,” admitted the minister consulted by AFP.
“What matters is deterrence, is being credible about what would be decided if Russia gets involved in a new intervention in Ukraine,” he said.