The US accused Russia of staging provocative actions in an attempt to create a pretext to invade Ukraine, according to reports by news agencies. According to an AFP report, the US accused Russia of sending personnel trained in dealing with explosives into Ukraine.
The development comes soon after Ukrainian websites faced a blackout following a cyber attack, which Ukraine believes have been perpetrated by Moscow.
“We have information that indicates Russia has already prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki was quoted as saying by the AFP. She then highlighted that the operatives are experts in urban warfare and explosives were sent for carrying out attacks against Russia’s own forces.
Psaki also pointed out that US intelligence officials familiar with the developments have said that the military invasion could begin between mid-January and mid-February. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied plans to invade Ukraine and called the statements unfounded.
Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko on Twitter said that due to a cyberattack the websites of the emergencies ministry, education ministry and cabinet were blacked out earlier on Friday.
“Hacker groups associated with the Russian secret services may stand behind today’s massive cyberattack on government websites,” Nikolenko said. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) offered support to Ukraine and said that it will allow the nation to access its malware information sharing platform when such cases arise.
Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg, who will join other European Union foreign ministers for a meeting later, however expressed similar concerns like the US and said that the cyberattack could be a signal that a military attack may follow.
The websites were restored and the officials from NATO and the Ukrainian government are working together to ascertain the causes, according to a report by the AFP.
US may back Ukraine
A report by the New York Times quoting senior officials of the Biden administration familiar with developments related to Ukraine said that the US may support insurgency in Ukraine – similar to the support it offered to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan – if Russia goes forward with the invasion.
Former NATO supreme commander James Stavridis told the NYT that if Russia invades Ukraine then the US and NATO will ramp up its support in terms of ‘intelligence, cyber, anti-armor and anti-air weapons, offensive naval missiles’. “If it turned into a Ukrainian insurgency, Putin should realize that after fighting insurgencies ourselves for two decades, we know how to arm, train and energize them,” Stavridis was quoted as saying by NYT.