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The United States is concerned that the Russian government is preparing for an invasion into Ukraine that may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes, a U.S. official said Friday.
The official told Fox News that Russia is laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating a pretext for invasion, including through sabotage activities and information operations, by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine.
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The official said that 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 the plans are reminiscent of the Kremlin’s playbook in 2014 with the invasion of Crimea. Russia annexed Ukraine in 2014.
The Biden administration, according to the official, has information that indicates Russia has already prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a “false-flag operation” in eastern Ukraine. The official warned that the operatives are trained in urban warfare, and in using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces.
The official explained that the administration’s information also indicates that Russian influence actors are already beginning to fabricate Ukrainian provocations in state and social media to justify a Russian intervention and sow divisions in Ukraine.
One example, the official said, is Russian officials and influence actors emphasizing narratives about “the deterioration of human rights in Ukraine and the increased militancy of Ukrainian leaders.”
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“These media narratives also blame the West for escalating tension, highlight humanitarian issues in Ukraine that Russian intervention could solve, and promote Russian patriotism to encourage domestic support for military action,” the official said.
Last month, the official said that Russian language content on social media covering “all three of these narratives” increased to an average of nearly 3,500 posts per day – a 200% increase from the daily average in November.
This, after the Biden administration this week maintained that it is “working in lockstep” with its allies to “urge de-escalation and respond to the security crisis caused by Russia.”
The Biden administration has expressed concern about the Russian military activity since early November, and have had officials “monitoring the region very closely.”
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White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met in November with Ukrainian officials and “emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
U.S. officials at the time, though, said that even amid the threat of a possible invasion, Ukraine’s military is better armed and prepared than in the past.