The Pentagon said Thursday they have intelligence information that Russia is planning to create a video of a false or fake Ukrainian attack, therefore justifying their own invasion into the former Soviet state. This is a very bold allegation by the U.S., at a time of heightened tensions in the region.​

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reported Thursday afternoon, “The Russian government, we think, is planning to stage a fake attack by Ukrainian military or intelligence forces against Russian sovereign territory or against Russian-speaking people, to therefore, justify their action.”

“As part of this fake attack, we believe that Russia would produce a very graphic propaganda video, which would include corpses, and actors that would be depicting mourners, and images of destroyed locations as well as military equipment,” Kirby explained. 

Last month, the White House said the U.S. had intelligence that Russia had prepositioned a group of operatives in eastern Ukraine in order to create a “false-flag operation” there. The administration said the group was trained in urban warfare and the use of explosives.

The U.K. said on Wednesday that it had conducted its “own analysis of the intelligence,” and it had “high confidence that Russia is planning to engineer a pretext blaming Ukraine in order to justify a Russian incursion.”  Britain’s foreign secretary Liz Truss said, “There is clear and shocking evidence of Russia’s unprovoked aggression and underhand activity to destabilize Ukraine.”

The U.S. took the rare step of making this intelligence public in order to dissuade Russia from moving forward or, if it did move forward, to make it more difficult for it to spread disinformation after the fact, according to Jon Finer, the principal deputy U.S. national security adviser.

The Washington Post first reported the U.S. assessment about the Russian activity. The Biden administration has for months warned about potential “imminent” invasion by troops local to Moscow, which the U.S. assesses numbers in excess of 100,000 along Russia’s border with Ukraine, within allied Belarus to Ukraine’s north and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, to its south.

Russian leaders have repeatedly denied any provocative military actions, saying its deployments only amount to military exercises. It has also criticized the NATO alliance for provoking Russia into war by, in part, expanding its membership to former Soviet states. Ukraine has pressed for admission into the Cold War-era alliance.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said, as recently as Wednesday, that they do not believe Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had yet decided whether to invade Ukraine.

But if he did want to move forward, the senior administration official said, one trigger could be Russia recognizing separatist regions in Ukraine as independent, rather than as part of Ukraine. Russia’s parliament is advancing legislation that would do so.

The U.S. announced this week it would deploy thousands of American troops to allied countries in Eastern Europe, including Romania, as a deterrent against Russian aggression. The Biden administration continues to face questions about why it would initiate potentially provocative military activity elsewhere in Europe when Russia’s focus appears entirely on Ukraine.

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