The United States has intelligence showing that Russia has a plan to fabricate a pretext for invading Ukraine, US newspapers reported on Thursday.
Russia has been amassing tens of thousands of troops on its borders with Ukraine but denies that it is planning to invade. Instead, Moscow has accused the United States of escalating tensions by deploying more troops to the region to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank.
According to The New York Times, US officials have evidence that the Kremlin has developed a plot that involves using video of a fabricated attack by Ukrainian forces — either on Russian territory or against Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine.
The Washington Post reported that the alleged operation aimed to broadcast fake images of civilian casualties to incite anger among a large audience and create a pretext for invasion.
‘An option’ on Moscow’s table
The newspaper said the alleged plot had been approved at high levels in Moscow. Citing US officials speaking on condition of anonymity, it said details of the plan had been declassified by US intelligence and were expected to be released by the Biden administration on Thursday.
Responding to the newspaper reports, US Deputy National Security Adviser Jonathan Finer said it wasn’t certain that “this is the route they are going to take, but we know that this is an option under consideration — that would involve actors playing mourners for people who are killed in an event that they (Russia) would have created themselves.”
“That would involve the deployment of corpses to represent bodies purportedly killed, of people purportedly killed in an incident like this,” Finer told broadcaster MSNBC.
NATO: 30,000 Russian troops in Belarus
Earlier, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders was continuing. He said Russian troop numbers in Moscow-ally Belarus were likely to increase to 30,000 — more than at any other point in the last 30 years.
“Over the last days, we have seen a significant movement of Russian military forces into Belarus. This is the biggest Russian deployment there since the Cold War,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
He said the deployment there was backed by special forces, advanced fighter jets, Iskander short-range ballistic missiles and S-400 ground-to-air missile defense systems.
Stoltenberg also renewed his call for Russia to “de-escalate,” and reiterated that “any further Russian aggression would have severe consequences and carry a heavy price.”
NATO has started reinforcing the defenses of its members in the east but says it has no intention of deploying troops to Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance, in the event of a Russian invasion.
nm/sms (Reuters, AP)