As Russia moves more and more troops and military hardware to the borders with Ukraine, a number of Russian officials are getting increasingly vocal in their allegations suggesting a “high likelihood” of some kind of provocation on the part of Ukraine, targeting Russia.
Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Alexander Grebenkin, recently told Russian journalists of possible "provocations" by Ukraine near the de-facto border with the Russian-occupied Crimea.
In turn, Russian officials decry any accusations of plotting another invasion of Ukraine, albeit with a small proviso. In particular, Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, denied reports of Russia preparing an offensive on Ukraine, by saying: "No, we are not planning this and we never have," which is already a lie as such, taking into account the events of 2014. At the same time, the diplomat added that “the Kremlin's peaceful position” will remain in place until Russia “is subjected to provocations from Ukraine or anyone else." In this case, invading the territory of a neighboring state would become "a matter of protecting the sovereignty of the Russian Federation."
I’d like to note that on November 23, the FLOT-2017 outlet reported that the Russian side had been preparing a provocation in the Sea of Azov involving a what they will claim is a “Ukrainian Coast Guard boat.” The relevant preparations are underway off the coast of Kerch.
Today, pro-Russian politicians have noticeably revived their anti-Ukrainian rhetoric, alleging a provocation plot being designed in Kyiv, which would allow the government to introduce martial law. In particular, Ilya Kiva, a notorious pro-Russian MP, has accused President Volodymyr Zelensky of setting up the base for imposing martial law and inflating the problem of Russia's possible invasion. In unison with Ilya Kiva, a similar narrative was relayed by another pro-Russian politician, Vadym Kolesnichenko.
What do we have in the bottom line?
The bottom line is that we have an extremely dangerous precedent – in the Russian media space, a narrative about some kind of a provocation on the part of Ukraine is being spun rather actively. This "provocation" may give Russia a pretext for deploying their troops in Ukraine. Russia’s political and media minions in Ukraine are also echoing the “provocation” and “martial law” narratives. At the same time, information is emerging about a provocation being plotted by Russia in the occupied Crimea.
In fact, we’re observing nothing but psyop preparations ahead of a casus belli event. It’s hard to say what it will be about, whether it will be alike a 1939 “shelling” of Soviet border guards by “Finnish soldiers”, which ignited the “Winter War”, or a similar “shelling” in August 2008 on the eve of the Five Day War… But the latest hype in the media space and the flow of narratives emanating from Russian officials and their assets in Ukraine is not at all calming but rather raising tensions.
It is difficult to say what ultimate goals Russia is currently pursuing, but it is obvious that at the moment they see escalation as beneficial in a number of ways. It is almost impossible, however, to predict whether the Kremlin will limit itself to only escalating tensions in the information space or go further. Primarily this is because Moscow has rarely been guided by common sense in their decision-making and actions.