US worries Russia plans pretext to invade Ukraine if diplomacy fails

Russian soldiers during an exercise in the Rostov region

Por Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is concerned that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine soon by fabricating a pretext for war if diplomacy fails to deliver, the White House said on Friday.

Talks between the United States, its European allies and Russia ended in a stalemate this week, with no plans for further meetings over the presence of tens of thousands of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border. A cyberattack against Ukraine on Friday further inflamed tensions.

A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said it was still unclear who was responsible for the cyberattack, but that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the matter.

“We are in contact with the Ukrainians and offer our support as Ukraine investigates the impact and nature and recovers from the incidents,” the spokesperson said.

Biden warned of serious economic consequences for Russia if Russian President Vladimir Putin launches an invasion of Ukraine. Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine and has demanded that NATO stop its eastward expansion and agree to legally binding security guarantees, demands the United States and NATO have rejected.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the US is concerned that the Russian government “is preparing for an invasion of Ukraine that could result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes if the diplomacy does not fulfill its objectives”.

“As part of its plans, Russia is laying the groundwork for having the option of fabricating a pretext for invasion, including through sabotage activities and information operations, accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces in the east. from Ukraine,” said Psaki.

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