Russia planning false-flag operation to justify invasion of Ukraine: US official
Vladimir Putin (Shutterstock)

Russia is planning a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine to set up a pretext for an invasion, according to U.S. intelligence.

A U.S. official told CNN that Russia has prepositioned operatives trained in urban warfare and explosives to sabotage their own proxy forces there, echoing claims made Friday by Ukraine's Ministry of Defense, which accused Russian special forces of preparing provocations intended to frame the nation.

"The Russian military plans to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February," the U.S. official said. "We saw this playbook in 2014 with Crimea."

National security adviser Jake Sullivan had said Thursday that U.S. intelligence had determined that Russia was planning to fabricate a pretext for an invasion, and the other U.S. official said social media accounts had been increasingly pushing a narrative about the deterioration of human rights in Ukraine and increasing militancy of its leaders.