The official said the US has evidence that the agents are trained in urban warfare and in the use of explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces.
The allegation comes in line with a statement released Friday by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry saying that Russian special forces are preparing provocations against Russian forces in an attempt to frame Ukraine. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan hinted at intelligence during a briefing with reporters on Thursday.
“Our intelligence community has developed information, now degraded, that Russia is laying the groundwork for having the ability to concoct the pretext for invasion,” Sullivan said Thursday. “We saw this playbook in 2014. They are re-preparing this playbook and we will, the administration will have, have more details about what we see as this possible pretext to interact with the press over the next 24 hours. parts .”
Ukraine’s defense ministry said in a statement Friday that “the military units of the aggressor country and its satellites are being ordered to prepare for such provocations.”
The US intelligence finding comes after a week of diplomatic meetings between Russian and Western officials over Russia’s rallying of tens of thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine. But the talks yielded no breakthroughs, as Russia would not commit to de-escalation and US and NATO officials said Moscow’s demands — including that NATO never admit Ukraine into the alliance — were unintended.
The US official said the Biden administration believes Russia could prepare for an invasion of Ukraine “which could lead to widespread human rights abuses and war crimes if diplomacy fails to fulfill their objectives”.
“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. “We saw this scenario in 2014 with Crimea.”
The US has also seen Russian influential actors begin to mobilize the Russian public for intervention, the official said, including highlighting stories of the deterioration of human rights in Ukraine and the increased militancy of Ukrainian leaders.
“In December, Russian-language social media content that includes all three of these stories increased to an average of nearly 3,500 posts per day, a 200% increase from the November daily average,” the official said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that Russia believes NATO will expand its activities along its border with Ukraine if Moscow does not comply with the demands of the West.
“While our proposals aim to reduce military confrontation and de-escalate the overall situation in Europe, the exact opposite is happening in the West. NATO members are building their strength and aviation. In the areas immediately adjacent to Ukraine, on the Black Sea, the size of the exercises has increased many times recently,” Lavrov said.
This story is breaking and will be updated.