“This is a page from the Russian playbook,” said one of the officials. “We are very aware that Russia will try to invent some pretext to carry out an attempted coup.”
The Kremlin pushed back against the assessment of intelligence. “To date, all of these statements are unfounded and have not been confirmed by anything,” said Dmitri S. Peskov, Mr. Putin told TASS, a state-run news agency.
The discovery of intelligence was previously reported by CNN.
One senior official of the administration said there were concerns that saboteurs or provocateurs could stage an incident in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, prompting a possible pretext for a coup. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine announced several months ago that he believed an attempted coup was under way, but it never materialized.
Earlier on Friday, the Ukrainian military intelligence service announced that it had intercepted information about a plot by Russian spies to launch a sabotage operation from disputed territory in Moldova, south of Ukraine, where Russia maintains a large contingent of troops. The plan, according to the statement, was to attack Russian troops stationed at an arms depot near the border with Ukraine and blame Ukrainian troops.
Understand the escalating tensions over Ukraine
A senior Ukrainian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said that although not all details of the plot were known, any provocation in that region could be used to launch an attack on the southern flank of Ukraine. justify, possibly from Russian naval sources in the Black Sea.
The US also claimed to have embraced disinformation operations, uploading them in the Russian media Influenced actors are already beginning to make Ukrainian provocations in state and social media to justify a Russian intervention and sow divisions in Ukraine. These include, the official said, “the emphasis on narratives about the decline of human rights in Ukraine and the increased militancy of Ukrainian leaders.”
In his briefing, Mr. Kirby said that if “we are talking about Russian operatives, it could represent a mix of individuals in the Russian government, whether it be from their intelligence communities, their security services or even their military.”