The U.S. revealed on Thursday it has evidence of Russia’s plan to justify invading Ukraine using a propaganda video depicting the graphic aftermath of a Ukrainian military attack.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a press conference on Thursday, “The United States has information that Russia is planning to stage fabricated attacks by Ukrainian military or intelligence forces as a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine.”
The reported video would entail faked footage of Ukrainian military attacking Russian territory or Russians in Ukraine. The video would include staged graphic scenes, including dead bodies strewn about and targets destroyed by explosions, along with faked Ukrainian military vehicles and equipment.
“The production of this propaganda video is one of a number of options that the Russian government is developing as a fake pretext to initiate and potentially justify military action against Ukraine,” Price said.
U.S. officials first revealed the plan to The New York Times earlier on Thursday, and added that Russia would then distribute the video along with accusations of Ukrainian genocide of Russians. The ensuing outrage would enable Russia to justify an attack.
Russia already has falsely accused Ukraine of genocide, and such a video would be an extension of those propaganda efforts already undertaken.
Though the officials could not provide additional details of the video or reveal how it was obtained in order to prevent exposing their sources, they did state that “Russian intelligence is intimately involved in this effort.”
Russian officials had already secured corpses to use in the fake video, planned to acquire actors to depict mourners and strategies to make military equipment look like it was supplied by Ukraine or NATO.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and other Biden administration officials briefed Congress of Russia’s plan on Thursday, and the administration also shared details with allies.
A U.K. official said Britain’s own intelligence also showed Russia planned to stage an incident that would serve as a pretext to blame Ukraine and invade in retaliation, calling the details “credible and extremely concerning.”
U.S. officials said they hoped by exposing Russia’s video plan, they could prevent its efficacy in laying the groundwork to prompt a military invasion.
Last month, President Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan revealed during a White House press briefing that U.S. intelligence uncovered evidence of a potential Russian plan to attack Russian forces already in eastern Ukraine, blame the attack on Ukraine, and use that attack as a justification to invade Ukraine. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also said they believed Russia to be planning to frame Ukraine.
“Our intelligence community has developed information … that Russia is laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating a pretext for an invasion, including through sabotage activities and information operations, by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine,” Sullivan said at the time.
Details of Russia’s propaganda plan on Thursday come as the U.S. and its allies have urged Russia to pursue diplomacy and choose a path of de-escalation.