By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The United States has obtained intelligence indicating that Russia has formed a plan to stage a false attack, which would serve as justification for an invasion of Ukraine, according to the U.S. State Department and U.S. officials quoted in news reports on February 3.
The officials said the plan was revealed in declassified intelligence shared with Ukrainian officials and European allies in recent days.
The plan potentially included videos showing a staged attack depicting the graphic aftermath of an explosion, including equipment appearing to belong to Ukraine or allied nations, said an unidentified official.
“This video, if released, could provide Putin the spark he needs to initiate and justify military operations against Ukraine,” the official said. This would include the possibility of having separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine invite a Russian intervention.
The U.S. deputy national-security adviser, Jonathan Finer, said in an interview that the U.S. didn’t know for sure Russia would take such a route, “but we know that this is an option under consideration.”
Finer told U.S. broadcaster MSNBC that it would involve actors playing mourners and corpses to represent bodies of people purportedly killed.
State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed that U.S. intelligence has gathered the information. He told reporters that the United States is publicizing it to lay bare the extent of Russia’s destabilizing actions toward Ukraine and to dissuade Russia from continuing what Price said was a dangerous campaign.
Officials did not release any direct evidence of the plan or say how they learned of it because they did not want to risk compromising their sources and methods. It also was not clear that senior Russian officials had approved the operation.
A British government official quoted by The New York Times said the United Kingdom had done its own analysis of the intelligence and had high confidence that Russia was planning to engineer a pretext to blame Ukraine for an attack. The details of the intelligence, the official said, are “credible and extremely concerning.”
The allegation is the latest by the U.S. and Britain that Russia is plotting to use a false pretext to go to war against Ukraine after amassing more than 100,000 troops near its border with its neighbor.
In December the White House accused Moscow of developing a “false-flag” operation to create pretext for an invasion, and Britain recently named Ukrainians it accused of having ties to Russian intelligence officers plotting to overthrow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.