In Ukraine’s east, Russian intelligence services are preparing attacks with high civilian casualties which they will try to blame on Kyiv’s armed forces, a top Ukrainian security official said.
"In the occupied territories [of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions] Russian special services are in the process of identifying targets with a high civilian concentration: kindergartens, schools, apartment buildings, infrastructure facilities, etc., scheming the execution of various scenarios of terrorist acts," Olexandr Turchynov, head of Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council, said in a statement published Monday.
The Russians’ objective, according to Turchynov, is to create an event or events whose casualty numbers would be similar to those of the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine last year.
The jet, with 298 people on board, is widely suspected to have been shot down with a surface-to-air missile launched from a Russia-provided missile battery, a charge both Moscow and the rebels deny.
Veto at UN
Last month, Russia wielded its veto power at a United Nations Security Council vote, blocking the creation of an international tribunal to bring those guilty of the downing of MH17 to account.
According to Turchynov, Russia is hoping to stage the mass casualty events in eastern Ukraine to be able to accuse Kyiv’s forces of crimes against humanity so as to distract attention from its MH17 tribunal veto, which has been widely criticized by Western countries.
Their goal is to “deprive Ukraine of the global support [it enjoys] and to bring about its international isolation,” said Turchynov, citing intelligence data.
The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, which Kyiv and the West say is fueled by Russia as pay-back for last year’s toppling in Ukraine of a Moscow-backed president, has killed an estimated 6,700 people to date. Russia has consistently denied any direct involvement.