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The US accused Russia of sending saboteurs into Ukraine

The workmen were trained in urban warfare and explosives, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary said.


The White House on January 14, accused Russia's capital, Moscow of sending saboteurs into eastern Ukraine to fabricate an event that may serve as a justification for Russian President Vladimir Putin commanding an invasion of the nation.


The government did not reveal the nature of the information it had gathered, but the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed that the operators had been trained in urban warfare and explosives.


Psaki said that Russia is creating a framework that will act as a justification for initiating an invasion including their efforts to sabotage and media operations and also by accusing Ukraine of preparing an immediate strike against the Russian military in eastern Ukraine.


She added that the Russian military strategized to start these preparations several weeks before launching a military assault, which she stated may happen between mid-January and Mid-February. She claimed Moscow was following the same strategy as it did when it took over the Crimean Peninsula, which was a part of Ukraine, in 2014.


When questioned about the operation at a press briefing on Friday, Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby described the intelligence as "very credible."


Two other American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the judgment of the US was based on a mix of intercepts and individual actions on the ground. That might explain the administration's aversion to disclosing specific details for fear of alerting Russian operatives whose movements are being monitored.


The claims made by the United States were part of a plan to expose the attacks ahead of time to prevent them. However, by refusing to release the underlying intelligence -- some of which has already been shared with allies and seen by an important member of Congress -- the US exposed itself as being susceptible to Russian accusations that it was creating a proof. Russia has regularly brought up the highly weak case of intelligence that the US developed for invading Iraq, in the past, as part of a campaign to discredit the CIA and other US intelligence services as political agents.


The charges by the US came a day after the week of diplomatic meetings with Russia, which took place in Geneva, Brussels, and Vienna, to de-escalate the situation. However, no deal was reached to withdraw the nearly 100,000 Russian soldiers stationed on the Ukrainian border, nor did US or NATO accept Moscow's demand of withdrawal of all the military from former Warsaw Pact nations that have joined NATO.  


Russia has also requested that the US withdraw all of its nuclear weapons from Europe, as well as that Ukraine, Belarus, and Georgia, three former Soviet satellite republics, never join NATO.


The deputy secretary of state, Wendy R. Sherman said it's unclear whether Putin considers those to be feasible strategic goals, labeled them "non-starters" this week -- or whether his primary focus is on bringing Ukraine to control. Russian President Vladimir Putin aims to broaden his country's sphere of influence to encompass more of the former Soviet Bloc, particularly former Soviet countries such as Ukraine.


If Russia invades, the US has threatened significant financial and technological penalties, as well as threatened to arm a Ukrainian insurgency to make any Russian occupation costly and deadly. In recent phone calls, both Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned their Russian predecessors that any quick Russian victory in Ukraine would almost certainly be obeyed by a bloody uprising similar to the one that pushed the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan.


Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., head of the House Intelligence Committee, said the fresh claim against Russia reinforced the need to "supply Ukraine with the defensive equipment needed to dissuade invasion, and, if they are unsuccessful at deterrence, make a Russian invasion expensive to the invaders."


The Kremlin reacted to the intelligence report, "So far, all of these statements have been baseless and unconfirmed by anything," Putin's spokesperson, Dmitri S. Peskov, told the state-run news agency TASS.


CNN has already reported on the intelligence finding.


According to a senior, source from the Bidenadministration, there is the concern that saboteurs or provocateurs may organize an event in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, to provide a pretext for a coup. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a military coup was underway some months ago, but it never manifested.


Ukraine's military intelligence service said earlier Friday that it had received information on Russian operatives planning to launch a destructive operation from disputed territory in Moldova, south of Ukraine, where Russia has a substantial force of troops. According to the intelligence service, the aim was to assault Russian troops stationed near the Ukrainian border at a weapons stockpile and blame it on Ukrainian forces.


While not all details, of the plot are known, a senior Ukrainian military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters said that any intervention in that region could be used to justify an attack on Ukraine's southern borders, possibly using Russian naval resources in the Black Sea.


The websites of Ukraine's foreign ministry and several other government organizations were hacked just as the country was making that charge. However, the attack seemed unsophisticated, generating publicity but causing little genuine harm. Analysts found that it might have been carried out by anybody, including pro-Russian hackers, and lacked the complexity of prior Russian government-led operations.


The US also cautioned against misinformation efforts in its claims against Russia. "Russian influence operators are already trying to create Ukrainian provocations in state and social media to justify a Russian involvement and create tensions in Ukraine," the administration said in a statement summarising the claims. "Focusing narratives about the degradation of human rights in Ukraine and Ukrainian officials' growing aggressiveness" is one of them.


"When we talk about Russian agents, it might reflect a combination of folks inside the Russian government, whether it's from their intelligence community, their security agencies, or even their military," Kirby added in his Pentagon news conference.


"Not always very apparent who they particularly report to in the performance of some of these more undercover and secretive operations," he added.


That was the situation in 2014 when Moscow dispatched non-uniformed military soldiers to the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels have been engaged in a stalemate with the Ukrainian government.


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