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Russia could invade Ukraine within next month: U.S. intelligence

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A BMP-2 amphibious infantry fighting car during field firing practice in advance of the 78th Birthday of the Guards Tank Army of Western Military District, at the Golovenki Range outside Moscow.

Sergei Bobylev | TASS | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Intelligence agencies monitoring Russian cyber operations against Ukraine believe Russia’s pattern of activity could signal a ground invasion of Ukraine within the next 30 days, the White House said Friday.

This new timeline shows how likely the Biden administration considers a Russian attack on Ukraine imminent and the urgency of its efforts to reach a peaceful solution.

To counter any incursion by Russia’s military, the U.S. will impose unprecedented economic sanctions against members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. But this could trigger retaliatory moves by Moscow against the West – up to and including cuts in the energy that flows from Russia to the rest of the world. Russia is Europe’s largest source of natural gas, oil and coal.

Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated that analysts first observed a dramatic increase in coordinated social media misinformation through Russian-backed channels that aimed to destabilize the Ukrainian government. Jen spoke with reporters on Friday.

Psaki stated that the Russian military had plans to start these activities “a few weeks prior to a military invasion, which could occur between mid-January or mid-February.”

This revelation was made just hours after Russian cyber-operatives had taken down Ukraine’s major government agencies websites. They replaced the homepages of the agencies with an email message that said, “Be afraid, expect the worst.” This information is about your future, present, and past.

Ukraine faces a far greater threat than just a cyberattack. There are more than 200k Russian soldiers currently stationed along Ukraine’s borders. U.S. military analysts believe that there are many possible invasion routes, based upon troop movements.

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Psaki also stated that American intelligence services believe Russia “prepositioned” a group of terrorist operatives in Eastern Ukraine. The operatives have been trained in urban warfare as well as explosives use to sabotage Russia’s proxy forces.

According to Psaki, these Russian operatives form part of an overall Moscow strategy that “lays the groundwork for the possibility of fabricating pretexts for invading Ukraine,” she said during her daily briefing.

Psaki claimed that Russian proxy on social media have already accused Ukraine of preparing an attack against Russian forces within Eastern Ukraine as part of the false narrative.

If the Russian-backed troops in Ukraine were attacked by the prepositioned Russian agents, Moscow would be able to point to the accusation it made and then blame the Ukrainians.

The post Cold-War Ukraine has a 44-million-strong population and is democratically elected. Moscow considers it a long-standing ally and target.

Neglective negotiations are futile

Psaki’s latest revelations came just days after multiple high-stakes discussions between U.S. and European officials and their Russian counterparts.

Kyiv has been warning the U.S. allies and European allies, for many months, that Russian troops were assembling along its eastern borders. This buildup has led to Russia’s 2014 annexe of Crimea (a peninsula in the Black Sea), which caused a worldwide uproar and set off a string of sanctions against Moscow.

Russia was also removed from the Group of 8 (or G-8), which refers to eight global major economies, with the seizure of Crimea.

Recent weeks have seen repeated warnings from the Biden administration that America is ready to take more economic measures against Moscow if it invades Ukraine.

“We are ready to align with our allies and partners in order to impose these severe costs,” Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of the State said Monday.

Sherman began talks Monday morning in Geneva with Russia’s counterpart.

Victoria Nuland (U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs) said Tuesday that the Biden Administration was co-ordinating measures with NATO allies and the European Council, as well as G-7 member countries.

Moscow is determined

Ukraine sought NATO entry in 2002. where the group’s Article 5 clause states that an attack on one member country is considered an attack on all of them.

Russian officials spoke out this week in a press conference, stating that Ukraine should not become a NATO member.

“We require ironclad, bulletproof and bulletproof legally binding guarantees. Not assurances, not safeguards, but guarantees,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has stated previously that even though thousands of troops were deployed to Ukraine’s frontier, Moscow was not planning on an invasion of the ex-Soviet country. Putin also supported the right of Russia to send troops to its borders. He accused NATO, however, for escalating tensions through building military bases in countries adjacent to Russia.

Russia described NATO’s expansion to the east as “red line”, which poses security risks for Moscow.

Last month President Joe Biden spoke to Putin twice amid the significant military buildup on the Ukrainian border. Biden declined the second call, Dec. 7. accept Putin’s “red lines” on Ukraine.

At the most recent meeting of leaders call, on Dec. 30, Biden reiterated concerns and renewed threats that his administration would “respond decisively” alongside allies and partners if Russia invades Ukraine.

Patti Domm from CNBC contributed to this article.

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