State Department spokesman Ned Price sparred with reporters at a press conference on Thursday while being grilled for not presenting sufficient evidence for Russia’s plan to film and broadcast fake videos of Ukrainian forces attacking Russian or Russian-proxy soldiers as pretext for an invasion.
The Pentagon announced Thursday that the Russians had planned to release “very graphic propaganda,” including footage of “corpses, and actors that would be depicting mourners, and images of destroyed locations as well as military equipment in the hands of Ukraine or the West.”
Officials said Russia planned to use the video to accuse Kiev of genocide against Russian speakers, thereby justifying military action against Ukraine.
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee and others pushed Price for any evidence that the US government could reveal proving that Russia planned the “false flag” event.
“You said ‘actions such as these suggest otherwise,’ meaning they are not going to go ahead with talks. What actions are you talking about?” Lee asked Price at the press conference.
“The fact that Russia continues to engage in disinformation,” Price said back.
“You’ve made an allegation that they might do that. Have they actually done it?” Lee responded.
“What we know is what I just said. They’ve engaged in this activity,” Price said.
“Hold on a second,” the reporter replied. “What activity?
“We told you a few weeks ago we have information indicating Russia has also already pre-positioned a group of operatives to conduct a false flag operation in Eastern Ukraine,” Price said. “That is an action, to your question Matt.”
“No, it’s an action that you say they have taken but you’ve shown no evidence to confirm that … ” Lee said. “Crisis actors? This is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting into now. What evidence do you have to support that there is some propaganda film in the making?”
Price retorted that the information “is derived from information known to the US government, intelligence information that we have declassified.”
Lee asked where the classified information was, to which Price replied “I just delivered it.”
“No you made a series of allegations,” Lee snapped back before Price offered him a copy of the transcript of the press conference.
“That’s not evidence, Ned, that’s you saying it. It’s not evidence, I’m sorry,” Lee said, citing government reports of weapons of mass destruction before the Iraqi invasion and being told the Kabul would not fall last year.
“I’d like to see some proof that you can show that shows that the Russians are doing it,” he said.
“What is the evidence you have that shows the Russians are planning this evening?” he pushed again. “I’m not saying they’re not, but you come out here and say this and expect us just to believe it without you showing a shred of evidence that it’s actually true.”
Price said that the US government only declassifies information “only when we’re confident in that information,” adding that they do so in a means that “protects sensitive sources and methods.”
“If you doubt the credibility of the US government, the UK government and other governments and find solace in information that the Russians are putting out, that is for you to do,” Price told Lee.
Price said the goal of revealing this information was to deter the Russians from invading the Ukraine.