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US State Department spokesperson Ned Price. Alamy Stock Photo
eastern tensions

Spiky exchanges as Pentagon pushed for evidence that Russia is planning 'false flag' operation in Ukraine

The Pentagon says it has proof of a plan by Moscow to film a fake Ukrainian attack on Russians.

THE PENTAGON HAS been pushed to supply evidence of a plan by Moscow to film a fake Ukrainian attack on Russians to justify a real assault on its pro-West neighbor.

“We do have information that the Russians are likely to want to fabricate a pretext for an invasion,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said yesterday.

He told reporters that Washington believed the Russian government plans to stage an attack by the Ukraine military or intelligence forces “against Russian sovereign territory, or against Russian speaking people.”

The latter could refer to the sizeable Russian-speaking population inside Ukraine.

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.

That could allow Moscow, which has amassed more than 100,000 troops and heavy offensive arms on Ukraine’s border, with an excuse for invading.

Question of evidence

Neither Kirby nor State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, who also commented on the alleged plan, offered evidence to back the claim.

Kirby said part of the plan would be to make the Ukrainian military equipment used in it appear to be supplied by the West, he said, further justifying Russian reprisals against Ukraine.

“We’ve seen these kinds of activity by the Russians in the past and we believe it’s important when we see it like this that we can call it out,” Kirby said.

“I would just say that our experience is that very little of this nature is not approved at the highest levels of the Russian government,” Kirby said about the purported plan.

Price said the alleged plan is “one of a number of options that the Russian government is developing as a fake pretext to initiate and potentially justify military aggression against Ukraine.”

He said the United States did not know if Moscow has decided to go through with the plan.

“Russia has signaled it’s willing to continue diplomatic talks as a means to de-escalate, but actions such as these suggests otherwise,” Price said.

Pressed on whether there was evidence of such a plan, Price said it came from US intelligence, but offered no more details.

“I’m not going to spell out what is in our possession but I will leave that to your judgement,” he told reporters.

His response led to a spiky exchange with Associated Press reporter Matt Lee who asked for Price to provide evidence of the Pentagon claim.  

“We told you a few weeks ago we have information indicating Russia has also already pre-positioned a group of operatives to conduct a false flag operation in Eastern Ukraine,” Price said.

Lee responded: 

No, it’s an action that you say they have taken but you’ve shown no evidence to confirm that … Crisis actors? This is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting into now. What evidence do you have to support that there is some propaganda film in the making?

Asked later yesterday evening if the United States might be adding fuel to the fire by sending troops and aid, Kirby said Washington was trying to reassure NATO allies.

“One, we continue to flow security assistance to Ukraine, so that they can better defend themselves against this threat,” Kirby said during an interview on Fox News.

“And, number two, and this is really important: to make sure we are reassuring our allies, allies to whom we have significant security commitments.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called the US claim of Moscow’s false flag operations “clear and shocking evidence of Russia’s unprovoked aggression and underhand activity to destabilize Ukraine.”

“The only way forward is for Russia to de-escalate, desist and commit to a diplomatic pathway,” she said in a tweeted statement.

Russian response

Responding today to the allegations of a fake attack being planned, the Kremlin said that Washington could not be trusted.

“I would recommend not to believe anyone, and especially the State Department, when it comes to these issues,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday accused “Western colleagues” of making things up.

“The delusional nature of such fabrications — and there are more and more of them every day — is obvious to any more or less experienced political scientist,” he said in televised remarks.

© – AFP 2021 with reporting by Rónán Duffy

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