The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has dismissed as "unfounded" Western media reports accusing Russia of preparing a provocation to invade Ukraine amid escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington.
US news agencies cited an American official as saying earlier on Friday that US President Joe Biden's administration believes Moscow is planning a "false flag" operation in eastern Ukraine to justify an invasion of the country. The US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed that Russian operatives were already in position and Moscow had started conducting a social media disinformation campaign.
"Russian influence actors are already starting to fabricate Ukrainian provocations in state and social media to justify a Russian intervention and sow divisions in Ukraine," the official claimed.
Russia’s TASS news agency reported Peskov as saying that the US accusations were based on "unfounded" information, adding that Moscow has previously dismissed claims of invading Ukraine.
Western governments accuse Russia of planning an invasion of Ukraine amid a military buildup near the border. Moscow rejects the allegation and insists that its deployments are defensive in nature. Recently, Moscow has been especially unsettled by the prospect of Ukraine being admitted to NATO and has warned of serious measures to counteract that scenario. Last month, the Russian government put forth a number of security guarantees that it said it wanted from the West, in particular about Ukraine, and offered to take certain measures in exchange.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and his American counterpart, Wendy Sherman, held more than seven hours of negotiations on January 10.
Russia held two further rounds of talks with NATO in Brussels on Wednesday and with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on Thursday. Ryabkov was quoted by TASS news agency as saying on Thursday that this week’s talks with the United States in Geneva and with NATO in Brussels had hit a “dead-end,” and that there was no reason to hold a new round of negotiations over security guarantees demanded by Moscow.
Ahead of the first round of the talks on January 10, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had warned Russia of “severe costs” if it launched an attack on Ukraine.