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US has 18 punitive scenarios if Russia invades Ukraine: Sr. diplomat

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo of US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland

US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has claimed that Washington has prepared 18 response scenarios to confront alleged Russian plans to “invade” Ukraine amid the persisting Western publicity campaign against Moscow.

"I would simply say that our commitment and the conversation that we have with our allies is around inflicting very sharp pain very fast, if Russia makes this move in any form," Nuland boasted as quoted in a Saturday report by Sputnik News.

The senior diplomat, however, refused to elaborate about the details of the proclaimed scenarios but vowed that Washington and its Western allies were prepared to “inflict high costs on Russia” if it acts aggressively, according to the report.

Nuland further claimed that specific sanctions imposed against Russia by the US and its European allies in the NATO military alliance might be different, noting that some things are not as easy to do for the Europeans as they are for the US and vice versa.

She also went on to comment about the recent talks between the US and Russia on January 10, saying that Washington believes the path to a diplomatic resolution of the ongoing tensions remains open and praising the discussions as the first step.

The official further asserted that the US and Russia had "heard each other out" during the talks, but insisted that reaching an agreement will "need more time." She then noted that the White House is currently working on a written response to Russian representatives on the results of the talks, without elaborating.

"We believe that we can de-escalate and we can make some progress on some of these things through diplomacy,” she added. “We hope and expect that with some of the ideas that we put on the table, Moscow will stay at the table, but that’s Putin’s choice."

The development came as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov 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, further 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 insisting, however, that the American accusations were based on "unfounded" information, adding that Moscow has previously dismissed claims of invading Ukraine.

American officials also warned Russia on Friday that if it escalates the Ukrainian security crisis, the US may refer the matter to the UN Security Council.

"If Russia takes action, we're not going to hesitate to pursue an appropriate response in the Council and defend the principles of the UN Charter," one US official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"All options for Security Council response are on the table and we're discussing all of those with other Security Council members and with partners here in New York," the official added. "We are looking at the appropriate time to raise the issue in the Council."

The warning comes amid an apparently state-sponsored Western media campaign accusing Moscow of plotting to invade neighboring Ukraine.

"If Russia further escalates tension to really go to the heart of the principles and commitments that all nations states have made in the UN Charter ... there will be obviously an opportunity for discussion at the UN Security Council," said another US official.

Such claims also came amid reports that top US spy agency – the CIA -- is overseeing an undercover training program in the United States for Ukrainian forces, in an effort to “enhance” their “ability to push back against the Russians.”

According to local press reports published Thursday, CIA has been conducting the secret training program “for elite Ukrainian special operations forces and other intelligence personnel.”

Citing five former intelligence and national security officials familiar with the program, the report said the program started at an undisclosed facility in the southern US in 2015.

“The United States is training an insurgency,” a former CIA official said, adding the program has taught the Ukrainians how “to kill Russians.”

“If the Russians invade, those [graduates of the CIA programs] are going to be your militia, your insurgent leaders,” added the official. “We’ve been training these guys now for eight years. They’re really good fighters. That’s where the agency’s program could have a serious impact.”

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