First on CNN: US intelligence points to Russia preparing to justify invasion of Ukraine.

The official said the United States had evidence that operatives were trained in the use of ammunition to carry out sabotage against civil war and Russia’s own proxies.

The indictment echoes a statement issued by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense on Friday, which said Russian special forces were preparing provocations against Russian forces in an attempt to rebuild Ukraine. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made the intelligence statement during a news conference Thursday.

“Our intelligence community has created information that has now been downgraded, and Russia is laying the groundwork for creating an excuse for an invasion,” Sullivan said Thursday. “We saw this playbook in 2014. They are redesigning this playbook, and management will have more details on what the possibilities are for using the excuse to share with the press in the next 24 hours.”

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Friday that “military units in the occupied territories and its satellites are receiving orders to prepare for such provocations.”

The discovery by US intelligence comes after a week-long diplomatic meeting between Russian and Western officials over Russia’s deployment of tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border. But the talks failed to make any progress because Russia did not promise to intensify and US and NATO officials said Moscow’s demands – that NATO would never allow Ukraine into the alliance – were not a start.

The U.S. official said the Biden administration believed that Russia may be preparing to invade Ukraine, which could lead to widespread human rights abuses and war crimes if diplomacy fails to meet their objectives.

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“The Russian military plans to launch these operations several weeks before the military invasion, which will begin between mid-January and mid-February,” the official said. “We saw this drama book in 2014 with Crimea.”

The official said the United States has also seen Russian-influenced actors begin to prioritize Russian audiences for an intervention, emphasizing descriptions of human rights abuses in Ukraine and the increased militancy of Ukrainian leaders.

“In December, Russian-language content covering all three stories on social media increased to an average of 3,500 posts a day, up 200% from the daily average in November,” the official said.

US, NATO and European officials held high-level meetings with Russian officials this week. At the end of three meetings on Thursday, both sides came out with a pessimistic view. Russia’s deputy foreign minister has suggested the talks have reached a “deadlock” and warned there was no reason to pursue them. “The war cry is loud” Following the diplomatic sessions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Russia hoped NATO would increase its presence on its border with Ukraine if Moscow did not comply with Western demands.

“While our proposals are aimed at reducing military conflict and expanding the overall situation in Europe, the opposite is happening in the West. NATO members are building their strength and air traffic.

This story is going to be broken and updated.

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