Washington warns of a Russian plot to launch “sabotage” operations and...


Posted in: 15/01/2022 – 07:07

                Washington warned Friday of a Russian plot to launch "sabotage" operations and use them as a pretext to invade Ukraine, the White House spokeswoman said, noting that Russia had prepared elements to carry out a "camouflaged operation" in eastern Ukraine against proxy forces in its favor, adding that those operations could begin before Weeks of invasion that may take place between mid-January and February.  These statements exacerbated tensions, while Kiev accused Moscow of being behind the cyber attack on its ministries.                

The United States on Friday accused Russia of sending items to Ukraine To carry out "sabotage" operations aimed at creating a "pretext" for an invasion, which heightened tensions at a time when Kiev blamed Moscow for a cyber attack on its ministries.

In this context, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, while explaining intelligence that Washington confirmed that it had obtained, “We have information indicating that Russia has indeed prepared a group of elements to carry out a camouflaged operation in eastern Ukraine.”

“The elements are trained in urban warfare and the use of explosives to launch sabotage” against Russian proxy forces, Psaki said. She added that US intelligence believed that Russia could start those operations weeks before the military invasion, which could start between mid-January and February.

Russia has previously denied any plans to invade Ukraine and quickly denied recent US statements, which Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described as “unfounded”. Simultaneously, two US officials said Friday that if Russia chooses to escalate the crisis over Ukraine, the United States can resort to the UN Security Council, stressing that Washington still prefers to settle the file diplomatically.

For its part, NATO announced Friday its intention to sign an agreement with Ukraine to strengthen their cooperation in combating cyber attacks, hours after government websites in Ukraine were subjected to a major cyber attack. The agreement to be signed “in the coming days” centers on granting “Ukraine access to a NATO platform to share information on malicious programs,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, explaining that NATO experts are providing “field support to the Ukrainian authorities.”

Big cyber attack!

This comes after Ukraine revealed on Friday that a major cyber attack had targeted a number of government websites. The circumstances of this attack are still unknown. Ukraine announced that it had “initial indications” of possible involvement of Russian intelligence.

The European Union was quick to condemn the attack, amid a tense atmosphere between Russia and Western countries, which fear that Russian forces will invade Ukraine. And Josep Borrell, the bloc’s foreign policy official, said that everything was mobilized to help Kiev, saying, “You can imagine who did it,” without further explanation.

For his part, Andrei Ermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office, said that Western and Ukrainian intelligence believed that the cyber attacks were part of a scheme aimed at “destabilizing Ukraine”. Moscow has repeatedly accused of launching coordinated information attacks on websites and their infrastructure, which Russia has denied, and Kiev confirmed Friday that it did not suffer serious damage as a result of this “large-scale” attack, which affected the websites of several ministries.

The masterminds of this attack posted a threatening message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish on the homepage of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry website. The message, which was accompanied by several symbols, including a crossed out Ukrainian flag, read: “Ukrainians, fear the greatest. All your personal data has been downloaded from the network.” For its part, the authorities denied any data theft. The Ukrainian Security Service confirmed that “the content of the sites has not been altered and no leaks of personal data were recorded,” noting that the websites were intentionally disabled to avoid “widespread attacks.”

Some see a large-scale cyber attack on basic infrastructure in Ukraine with the aim of destabilizing it as a sign of an imminent military invasion. Ukraine has been repeatedly subjected to information attacks in recent years attributed to Russia, affecting basic infrastructure in 2017 and the electricity network in 2015.

Russian exercises near Ukraine

The new information attack comes after several sessions of talks between Russian and Western officials held in recent days to defuse the crisis, without making progress. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested a trilateral meeting with his American counterparts, Joe Biden and Russian Vladimir Putin, to be held virtually, in an effort to defuse the crisis at the border between Ukraine and Russia, Ermak revealed.

Russia has previously announced that it sees no reason to hold a new round of talks with Western countries “in the coming days”, stressing that it has no “intention” to invade its neighbor. On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry published pictures of military exercises about fifty kilometers from the Ukrainian border, with the participation of 2,500 soldiers and about a hundred tanks.

Russia annexed Crimea after a pro-Western revolution in Ukraine. Moscow is the military sponsor of pro-separatists who have been fighting with Ukrainian forces in the east of the country since 2014.

FRANCE 24/AFP

            




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