US officials warned that Russia could begin cyberattacks against America as it prepares for a possible invasion of Ukraine that a congressman called ‘inevitable.’
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a ‘Shields Up’ alert on Friday night, warning all organizations in the US, regardless of size, to ‘adopt a heightened posture when it comes to cybersecurity and protecting their most critical assets.’
‘While there are not currently any specific credible threats to the U.S. homeland, we are mindful of the potential for the Russian government to consider escalating its destabilizing actions in ways that may impact others outside of Ukraine,’ the agency said in a statement.
CISA Director Jen Easterly wrote on Twitter: ‘Every organization in the US is at risk from cyber threats that can disrupt essential services. As we know, the Russians have used cyber as a key component of their force projection, to include disabling or destroying critical infrastructure.’
Although the alert was sent out as a precaution for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. GOP Rep. John Katko believed there was nothing that could be done to prevent armed conflict, telling Fox News that the Biden administration failed to change anything after Joe Biden’s one-hour call with Vladimir Putin on Saturday.
‘They really don’t have a cohesive foreign policy and they don’t project strength,’ Katko said.
‘The concern I have is that this is symptomatic of a larger problem with this administration.’
Biden warned Putin of the ‘swift and sever’ economic and political costs of invading Ukraine as the Pentagon deployed another 3,000 troops to Eastern Europe on Saturday while Russia has amassed about 120,000 soldiers at its border with Ukraine.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned that every organization in the US is at risk of cyberattacks from Russia
President Joe Biden told Russia’s President Vladimir Putin he would face ‘swift and severe’ economic and political costs if he pushed ahead with plan to invade Ukraine. Biden made the call from Camp David where he is spending the weekend
The Kremlin said Putin told Biden that he had not taken into account Russian concerns about NATO approaching its territory
US Rep. John Katko said the president failed to ‘project strength’ during his hour-long call with Vladimir Putin and lacked a robust foreign policy plan. He said an armed conflict was inevitable
The Pentagon deployed another 3,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to Eastern Europe on Saturday. About 1,700 troops were deployed there on Tuesday
Russia has amassed about 120,000 soldiers at its border with Ukraine. The Russian troops have been engaging in weapons tests near the border as a show of strength
Although Russia has yet to announce any plans for an invasion, intelligence officials said it could come at anytime now while journalists warn it may come Wednesday
The call came 24 hours after the US told Americans to get out of Ukraine and offered its bleakest warning yet that an invasion was coming.
All American citizens still in Ukraine have been advised to leave immediately, and on Saturday morning the Pentagon ordered the evacuation of 160 Florida National Guardsmen, who had been training Ukrainian forces and represented the final US troop presence in the country.
The State Department also warned that the US government will not send any troops into Ukraine to extract Americans in the event of a Russian military incursion, and says any citizens still in the country need to leave now.
‘Military action may commence at any time and without warning,’ the State Department said in a flash bulletin. ‘US citizens should not travel to Ukraine, and those in Ukraine should depart immediately using commercial or other privately available transportation options.’
Amid the heightened tensions, the CISA said it had been preparing to bolster awareness of potential Russian cyberattacks for months, noting that Russians have engaged in cyberattack in the Ukraine in 2015, a year after Russia seized the Crimea.
‘The Russian government understands that disabling or destroying critical infrastructure—including power and communications—can augment pressure on a country’s government, military and population,’ the CISA said in a statement.
The messages from American officials have spooked the Ukrainian government, which demanded to see intelligence that Russia is planning to invade on Wednesday.
Diplomatic sources told DailyMail.com it was part of a strategy designed to deny Moscow any attempt to launch a ‘false flag’ operation as justification for attacking Ukraine.
At the same time, a senior administration official said Putin still had the choice to back down from ‘an action that we believe would be catastrophic.’
He said Russia was already having to play defense on the world stage, and that financial sanctions and export controls would follow invasion.
‘If Russia invades this list will also include a severe economic costs – as I’ve already described – and irrevocable reputational damage caused by taking innocent lives for a bloody war of choice,’ he told reporters after the call.
The official also spelled out how military assistance continued to flow to Ukraine – seen as a tacit warning that invading forces could get bogged down in a messy, drawn-out conflict.
For its part, the Kremlin said Putin told Biden he had not taken account of Russia’s security concerns.
Kremlin official Yuri Ushakov said the call was ‘businesslike’ but accused the West of spreading ‘hysteria’ about an invasion, according to Reuters.
Earlier Ukraine’s president demanded the US share intelligence which suggests Russia is planning to invade his country on Wednesday after America claimed an assault was imminent.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a live broadcast on Saturday told the US: ‘If you have 100 percent-certain information about a Russian invasion of Ukraine, please share it with us’.
Uragan rocket launchers are fired during joint Russian-Belarusian military drills on Saturday, as tensions escalate
U.S. troops of the 82nd Airborne Division recently deployed to Poland set up camp at a military airport in Mielec, southeastern Poland, on Saturday. Meanwhile the Pentagon is withdrawing 160 military trainers from Ukraine
People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate Ukrainians’ patriotic spirit and intention to resist any Russian aggression amid growing tensions, in Kiev on Saturday
Demonstrators shout slogans as they stand with lit flares on a bridge adorned with a banner ‘Ukranians will resist – Say No to Putin’ during a rally in Kiev on Saturday, held to show unity amid US warnings of an imminent Russian invasion
A Russian helicopter fires during during joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at the Gozhsky firing range in the Grodno region, near the Ukrainian border on Saturday
Russian armored vehicles move at the Gozhsky training ground near the border with Ukraine on Saturday during Russia-Belarus military drills in Belarus. Russia has massed troops near the Ukraine border but denies invasion plans
In an alert, the State Department said that the US Embassy in Kiev would suspend all consular services starting on Sunday as diplomatic staff evacuate, in a sign that the US fears a Russian assault could reach the Ukrainian capital.
‘Prudence requires us to assume, to plan for and prepare for a worst-case scenario,’ a US official told reporters on a call. ‘And the worst-case scenario would obviously involve substantial Russian attacks on the Ukrainian capital.’
A small skeleton crew of US diplomats will fall back to a consulate in Lviv in far western Ukraine to handle emergencies. The fallback position is close to the border with Poland, allowing for easier extraction of the staff if the situation deteriorates.
US and Polish officials are now said to be scouting for locations to establish fortified border control points along the Poland-Ukraine frontier to process Americans fleeing by land, in the event an attack halts commercial air flights.
Biden spoke to Putin for an hour and two minutes on Saturday
It comes as alleged invasion plans, reported by German newspaper Der Spiegel and reviewed by the Pentagon, are said to detail specific routes that might be taken by individual Russian units in an imminent invasion scheduled for Wednesday.
Russia has massed well over 100,000 troops near the Ukraine border and has sent troops to exercises in neighboring Belarus, but denies that it intends to launch an offensive against Ukraine.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry in a post on Telegram accused Western governments and press outlets of conspiring in a ‘large-scale disinformation campaign against Russia’.
‘We regard this as collusion between the Western governments and media aimed at fanning tensions over Ukraine by means of a massive and coordinated fake news campaign designed to serve their geopolitical interests, in particular, to divert attention from their own aggressive actions,’ the ministry said.
Russia on Saturday accused a US Navy submarine of violating Russian waters in the Pacific, saying that Russian forces chased the Virginia-class submarine away ‘at maximum speed’ after it ignored demands to surface.
But the Pentagon denied the claim.
U.S. Navy Capt. Kyle Raines, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spokesman said: ‘There is no truth to the Russian claims of our operations in their territorial waters. I will not comment on the precise location of our submarines but we do fly, sail, and operate safely in international waters.’
Russia is also drawing down its embassy staffing in Kiev in another troubling sign that war is imminent.
In an alert, the State Department said that all consular services would be suspended the U.S. Embassy in Kiev (above) starting on Sunday, warning any American still in Ukraine to leave the country immediately
Putin has massed well over 100,000 troops near the Ukraine border and has sent troops to exercises in neighboring Belarus, but Russia insistently denies that it intends to launch an offensive against Ukraine
In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, a tank takes part in a military exercise, in Russia
A satellite image made available by Maxar Technologies shows alleged new Russian deployments at Slavne, Crimea, earlier this week. More than 550 troop tents and hundreds of vehicles have arrived at the Oktyabrskoye airfield north of Simferopol
A satellite image shows a close-up of troops and equipment at Oktyabrskoye air base, Crimea on Thursday
People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate their patriotic spirit amid growing tensions with Russia, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday
Workers unload a Boeing 747-412 plane with the FGM-148 Javelin, American man-portable anti-tank missile provided by US to Ukraine as part of a military support to Ukraine, at Kyiv’s airport Boryspil on Friday
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Saturday that the country has ‘optimized’ staffing at its embassy in Kiev, but said the move was in response to concerns about possible military actions from the Ukrainian side.
‘We conclude that our American and British colleagues apparently know about some military actions being prepared in Ukraine that could significantly complicate the situation in the security sphere,’ she said.
‘In this situation, fearing possible provocations by the Kiev regime or third countries, we actually decided to somewhat optimize the staffing of Russian foreign missions in Ukraine.’
Early on Saturday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov to discuss the crisis, after the US alleged that ‘extremely detailed’ Russian invasion plans, seen by the Secret Service, CIA and the Pentagon, showed that a war was imminent in eastern Europe.
On the call, Lavrov accused accused Washington of waging a ‘propaganda campaign’ about possible Russian aggression, and said the US had ignored key Russian security demands, according to a readout of the call from the Russian foreign ministry.
Blinken responded by vowing that ‘further Russian aggression would be met with a resolute, massive, and united Transatlantic response’ according to the State Department’s readout.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III also had a call with his Russian counterpart on Saturday, in which they discussed ‘Russia’s force build-up in Crimea and around Ukraine’ according to the Pentagon.
Britain on Saturday also told its citizens to leave Ukraine. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told the BBC that U.K. troops that have been training the Ukrainian army also would leave the country. Germany and the Netherlands also called on their citizens to leave as soon as possible.
Biden has said the U.S. military will not enter a war in Ukraine, but he has promised severe economic sanctions against Moscow, in concert with international allies.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Saturday said ‘it is critically important to remain calm, to consolidate within the country, and to avoid actions that undermine stability and sow panic.’
It added that the armed forces ‘are constantly monitoring developments and are ready to rebuff any infringement on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.’
Biden´s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said Americans should not expect the U.S. military to rescue them in the event that air and rail transportation is severed after a Russian invasion.
Thousands of British, American and other European citizens – including many embassy staff – have now been told to get out of Ukraine while they still can, as they were warned there would be no military evacuation in the wake of a Russian attack. (Pictured: Hurricane rocket launcher during Russian-Belarusian drill on Saturday)
Smoke fills the air during a military drill between Russia and Belarus in the Grodno region of Ukraine’s neighbor on Saturday
Several NATO allies including Britain, Canada, Norway and Denmark also are asking their citizens to leave Ukraine, as is non-NATO ally New Zealand.
Sullivan said Russian military action could start with missile and air attacks, followed by a ground offensive.
‘Yes, it is an urgent message because we are in an urgent situation,’ he told reporters at the White House.
‘Russia has all the forces it needs to conduct a major military action,’ Sullivan said, adding, ‘Russia could choose, in very short order, to commence a major military action against Ukraine.’ He said the scale of such an invasion could range from a limited incursion to a strike on Kiev, the capital.
Russia scoffed at the warning, blaming fears of a Ukraine invasion on American ‘hysteria’ and the ‘Anglo-Saxon need for war’.
The country’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram: ‘The White House’s hysteria is more revealing than ever. The Anglo-Saxons need a war. At all cost.
‘The provocations, disinformation and the threats are their favourite method for resolving their own problems.’
However in the same breath, she revealed Russia was reducing diplomatic staff in Ukraine because it feared ‘provocations’ from the Kiev authorities or ‘third countries’ – in another alarming sign that an invasion is edging closer.
It has long been suspected that Russia could use the cloak of an ‘attack’ in rebel-held, pro-Russian areas as an excuse to send in troops.
Zakharova added: ‘In the wake of possible provocations by the Kiev regime or third countries, we have, indeed, made a decision on some optimization of the staff of Russian overseas missions in Ukraine.
‘We want to highlight that our embassy and consulates will keep performing their basic functions.’
Britain made clear today that its embassy in Kiev would remain open despite a reduction in staff, and travel advice for all UK citizens to leave ahead of a feared Russian attack.
Snow camouflaged Tornado rocket launcher systems are put to the test in sub-zero Belarus on Saturday amid mounting fears of Ukraine invasion
An intelligence report has suggest Putin wants to invade Ukraine on Wednesday (Pictured: A serviceman takes aim during the Allied Resolve 2022 joint military drills by Belarusian and Russian troops)
Brits, Americans and other Europeans living in Ukraine have been told to get out while they still can amid rising tensions (Pictured: Servicemen operate 9K57 Uragan multiple rocket launchers during Russian-Belarusian military drill on Saturday)
Pictured: The Russian and Belarusian armed forces take part in Allied Determination-2022 military drill in Belarus on February 10, 2022. Thousands of Britons were tonight told to leave Ukraine immediately over fears of an imminent invasion by Russian forces that Washington spy chiefs warned could be ordered in a matter of days
Ambassador Melinda Simmons said: ‘I am staying in Kiev and continue to work there with a core team. The embassy remains operational.’
The US embassy will also run on a skeleton crew after it ordered all non-emergency Kiev embassy staff to leave Saturday ‘due to the continued threat of Russian military action’.
Despite mounting fears, Russia’s ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov told Newsweek magazine that warnings of an invasion were ‘alarmist’ and repeated that his country was ‘not going to attack anyone.’
But according to German newspaper Der Spiegel, the ‘February 16 invasion’ plans were deemed credible enough to be passed on to Biden’s government, before being discussed in a series of secret briefings with NATO allies.
They are said to contain specific routes that might be taken by individual Russian units and detail what roles they might play in the conflict. Der Speigel suggests the US is mulling whether to make the plans public in a bid to undermine them.
Images released Saturday showed Russian and Belarusian forces testing snow-camouflaged ‘hurricane’ and ‘tornado’ rocket launcher systems, while a major Russian sea drill, featuring deadly warships, was launched in the Black Sea.
Americans were warned to get out of Ukraine while they still can, as tensions reached boiling point amid fears that Putin could launch an ‘aerial bombardment’ of Kiev, risking a high civilian death toll.
The UK, Spain, The Netherlands, Kuwait, Germany and several other countries have also told their citizens to leave, including Belgium, who on Saturday warned there would be ‘no guarantee of evacuation’ following a ‘sudden deterioration’, as ‘communication links including internet and telephone lines could be seriously affected’ and air travel hampered.
The European Union also told non-essential staff from its diplomatic mission in Ukraine that they should leave the country, but stopped short of issuing a full evacuation order.
Videos purportedly showing atomic canons being moved towards Ukraine sparked fears Putin may be sending nuclear armed military hardware within striking distance of major cities. The video – showing huge 2S7 Pion guns (file photo) – was captured in Vesela Lopan, Bolgorod in Western Russia and just 10 miles from the Ukrainian border
Pictured: Still grabs from video purportedly showing atomic canons, sparking fears Putin may be sending nuclear armed military hardware to its borders with Ukraine
Meanwhile, videos purportedly showing atomic canons being moved towards Ukraine sparked fears Putin may be sending nuclear armed military hardware within striking distance of major cities.
The video – showing huge 2S7 Pion guns – was captured in Vesela Lopan, Bolgorod in Western Russia and just 10 miles from the Ukrainian border, according to The Sun.
Known as the ‘Soviet atomic cannon’, the devastating weapon is one of the most powerful artillery cannons ever built.
It can carry up to four 203 mm nuclear shells, which have the potential to annihilate large areas.
In a chilling press conference earlier this week, Putin warned that were Ukraine to join NATO, the risk of nuclear war would increase.
Russia has demanded that the alliance completely rules out Ukraine from ever joining.
The White House said Friday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could come within the week, possibly within the next two days, and urged Americans to leave the country now.
A call between Biden and Putin will take place on Saturday, a US official said Friday night, as top US General Mark Milley spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart General Valery Gerasimo.
The pair ‘discussed several security-related issues of concern,’ an official said.
Meanwhile, a senior official said that the US is sending 3,000 more troops to Poland, as President Biden met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders on Friday to brief them on developments.
The new wave of US troops join 1,700 who already are assembling there to support NATO allies.
The official, who provided the information on condition of anonymity before an official announcement, said the additional soldiers will depart their post at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, over the next couple of days and should be in Poland by early next week.
They are the remaining elements of an infantry brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division. A further 8,500 U.S. troops are already on alert.
This handout video grab released by the Russian Defence Ministry on February 11, 2022 shows tanks during joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus
A Ukrainian tank moves during military drills close to Kharkiv, Ukraine, Thursday, February 10, 2022
It also emerged on Friday that U.S. and European officials are finalizing an extensive package of sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine that targets major Russian banks, but does not include banning Russia from the SWIFT financial system, according to U.S. and European officials.
A diplomatic source said the strategy now was to intensify efforts to spell out the cost to Putin of invasion.
‘The message has to be that he cannot win,’ the source told DailyMail.com.
US and EU finalizing sanctions package should Russia invade Ukraine
U.S. and European officials are finalizing an extensive package of sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine that targets major Russian banks, but does not include banning Russia from the SWIFT financial system, according to U.S. and European officials.
The sanctions on the table also include export controls on components produced by Russia for the tech and weapons sectors, and sanctions against specific Russian oligarchs, according to three sources familiar with the discussions.
One U.S. official said the Russian banks targeted with sanctions could include state-backed VTB and Sberbank, the largest financial institutions in Russia.
Both institutions are already subject to sectoral sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region that limit their ability to raise capital in the United States, but the full blocking sanctions in sight now would have far more significant consequences, said one sanctions expert.
They would likely be accompanied by certain waivers and wind-down periods to limit harm to U.S. companies and those of allies.
Three sources familiar with the talks said banning Russia entirely from the SWIFT financial transaction system was not under active consideration after running into major objections from European countries.
European lenders have expressed concern that banning Russia from SWIFT would mean that billions of dollars of outstanding loans they have in Russia would not be repaid.
Sanctions against major Russian banks would still have a significant impact on the Russian financial sector and economy, one of the sources said. VTB and Sberbank’s share prices have been volatile in recent weeks, as investors worry Washington could ban Americans from holding debt or equity in the institutions.
‘The goal is to design sanctions that would really hit the Russians while keeping an eye on the collateral damage to those imposing them, recognizing that sanctions would clearly hit Europe harder,’ said one of the sources.
U.S. officials said strong progress was made on the sanctions package during meetings with their counterparts in Germany, France and Britain this week.
The U.S. and European allies have focused on sanctions that would be imposed in the event of a physical Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to U.S. and European officials. They would need to coordinate further on any sanctions response short of a full military invasion, such as big cyber attack.
‘A lot of the issues have been resolved,’ said one U.S. official familiar with the talks, adding, ‘I wouldn’t say there’s 100% agreement, but most of the concerns raised’ by Germany in particular have been addressed.
Visiting German chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Washington Monday he was aligned with the United States on actions on Russia, but did not mention the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that the U.S. has vowed to shut of Russia invades.
Reporting by Reuters
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States did not have definitive information that an invasion has been ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But he said all the pieces were in place for a major military operation that could start ‘rapidly’.
‘The risk is high enough and the threat is now immediate enough that prudence demands that it is the time to leave now,’ Sullivan said.
‘We are not saying that a decision has been taken by President Putin,’ Sullivan added.
‘What we are saying is that we have a sufficient level of concern based on what we are seeing on the ground, and what our intelligence analysts have picked up, that we are sending this clear message.’
He added that the possibility of an invasion taking place before the end of the Winter Olympics on February 20 is a ‘credible prospect’ and a ‘very, very distinct possibility’.
He said new Russian forces were arriving at the border and they are in a position to ‘mount a major military operation in Ukraine any day now’, which could include a ‘rapid assault on the city of Kiev’ or on other parts of the country.
Speaking from the White House, Mr Sullivan said Russia could choose ‘in very short order to commence a major military action against Ukraine’, but stressed the US does not know whether Putin has made a final decision.
Sullivan said the ‘threat is now immediate enough’ to urge Americans to leave Ukraine ‘as soon as possible and in any event in the next 24 to 48 hours’.
He did not mince words for those who choose to remain: ‘The president will not be putting the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk by sending them into a war zone to rescue people who could have left now but chose not to.’
Sullivan spoke shortly after Biden and six European leaders, the heads of NATO and the European Union held talks on the worst crisis between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War.
In a call lasting around 80 minutes, Downing Street said Johnson urged Nato allies to make it clear to Moscow there is a ‘heavy package of economic sanctions ready to go’.
‘The Prime Minister told the group that he feared for the security of Europe in the current circumstances,’ a No 10 spokeswoman said, in an account of the call that included French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, as well as EU leaders Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.
Johnson warned that the penalties would be ‘extremely damaging’ to Russia’s economy and urged that allies must reinforce Nato’s eastern frontiers.
Russia is holding massive war games in neighboring Belarus and insisting that the highly strained relations is not its fault.
Moscow denies planning to invade Ukraine, but says it could take unspecified ‘military-technical’ action unless a series of demands are met, including promises from NATO never to admit Ukraine and to withdraw forces from Eastern Europe.
The West has said those main demands are non-starters. The EU and NATO alliance delivered responses this week on behalf of their member states.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it wanted individual answers from each country, and called the collective response ‘a sign of diplomatic impoliteness and disrespect’.
The U.S. is set to send 3,000 more troops to Poland in the coming days to try to reassure NATO allies, U.S. officials told Reuters news agency on Friday.
Earlier, Blinken outlined what he said were ‘very troubling signs of Russian escalation.
‘We’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time – and to be clear, that includes during the Olympics,’ he said.