WASHINGTON: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin raised concerns today that recent cyberattacks on Ukraine and shelling in the Donbas region could be a sign that Russia is increasing tensions ahead of an invasion.
Speaking this morning at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Austin stopped short of attributing either incident to Russia, saying that the intelligence community continues to assess both events.
However, “we’ve been saying for a while that the Russians could do something like this to justify a military conflict,” Austin said, referring to the shelling that occurred in the Donbas area. on Thursday.
The recent cyberattacks also appear to be “a play from [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] books,” he added. “We expect to see, before any attack, we would expect to see cyberattacks, fake flag activities…. increase eloquence in the information space. And we’re starting to see more of that. “
Hours later, President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House that “every indication” the US has at this time points to a Russian invasion of Ukraine, which could happen “in the next few days.” “, according to a tweet by CNN. Natasha Bertrand.
Biden told reporters: “Every indication that we have is that they are prepared to go into Ukraine, attack Ukraine.”
Biden also said of an invasion, “My feeling is it’s going to happen in the next few days.”
– Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) February 17, 2022
Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the country’s Donbas region accused each other of shelling earlier today.
Based on CBSRussian-backed separatists claimed that Ukrainian troops opened fire on two districts they hold. Ukraine’s government denies the attack and says it was the separatists who fired on government-controlled territory, hitting a kindergarten with mortars in an attack that resulted in no casualties.
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On Tuesday, a cyberattack temporarily brought down the websites of Ukraine’s defense agencies and banks. Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov told the press on Wednesday that this is ” [such attack] history of Ukraine, “but it is still too early to say which entities are responsible, according to CNN.
These tensions are growing at the same time that Russia says it is supporting some of its forces outside Ukraine’s borders. This week, the Russian Defense Ministry released a video showing armed vehicles moving out of Crimea. It also announced that tank units would return to their bases after the drills, according to Related press.
However, US officials expressed doubts about the Russian claim.
“That would be good, but we haven’t verified that yet,” Biden said on Tuesday. “We have not yet verified that Russian military units are returning to their bases. Indeed, our analysts point out that they are still at risk. “
Today, Austin reiterated Biden’s statement that the United States would welcome additional dialogues with Putin, saying that “there is still time and space for diplomacy to work”.
However, he also noted that Russia has added forces to the 150,000 troops it has deployed near the border “even in the last few days” and that they are moving closer to Ukraine. While Austin did not provide numbers, a senior administration official told multiple media outlets that Russia has deployed 7,000 more troops to the region.
Austin said Russia has also sent additional fighter and support aircraft, increased operations in the Black Sea and stockpiled blood supplies.
“I myself was a soldier not too long ago, and I know ahead of time that you don’t do such things for no reason. And you definitely wouldn’t do them if you were ready to pack up and go home,” he said.
Although Mr. Biden has made it clear that the US will not deploy combat troops to Ukraine, the US continues to deploy forces along NATO’s eastern flank.
Austin today announced that Bulgaria has agreed to take over a US Army Stryker company, which will leave Germany in the coming days. US Air Force F-35s arrived in Germany on Wednesday, with the deployment of F-15s to Poland and F-16s to Romania made earlier this month.
https://breakingdefense.com/2022/02/biden-warns-of-ukraine-invasion-in-days-austin-watching-for-false-flag-effort/ Biden warns of Ukraine invasion in ‘a few days’, Austin tracks misfire attempt – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense