Russia planned to release a fake video to build support for invading Ukraine, senior Biden administration officials and others told The New York Times.
U.S. intelligence learned of Moscow's plans to stage and film a fabricated attack by the Ukrainian military either on Russian territory or against Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine.
Russia intended to use the video to accuse Ukraine of "genocide" against Russian-speaking people and justify an attack or have separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine invite a Russian intervention.
Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer confirmed the Times report in an interview with MSNBC.
"We don’t know that this is the route they are going to take, but we know that this is an option under consideration that would involve actors," Finer told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell.
The scheme's highlights have been declassified in hopes of both derailing Russia’s plans and convincing allies of the seriousness of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions.
A British government official said that their own analysis on the intelligence — details of which were "credible and extremely concerning" — produced high confidence that Russia was planning to engineer a pretext to blame Ukraine for an attack, the Times reported Thursday.
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, and is moving troops and surface-to-air missile systems into Belarus, which borders Ukraine and several NATO members, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The U.S. will move approximately 3,000 service members to Romania, Poland and Germany, the Pentagon's press secretary, John Kirby, said Wednesday during a news conference.
Officials refused to release direct evidence of the Russian video plan or how they learned of it, saying they did not want to compromise their sources and methods, the Times reported.
However, their credibility was enhanced by a recent Russian disinformation campaign focused on false accusations of genocide and recent Russian Parliament activity to recognize breakaway governments in Ukraine.
Graphic images of the staged, corpse-strewn aftermath of an explosion and footage of destroyed locations were to be included in the video, the Times said. U.S. officials said Russian counterparts had found corpses to use in the video, and worked to make military equipment appear Ukrainian or NATO-supplied.
U.S. intelligence officials have said the Kremlin has been pushing propaganda to support an attack on Ukraine since November via social media, conspiracy sites and with state-controlled media.
The Times said National Intelligence Director Avril Haines and other top administration officials briefed members of Congress on the material on Thursday. Details also were shared with allies.
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