A soft coup and cyber operations are concerns, but the conversation over Russia's threat to Ukraine increasingly centers on the possibility of a conventional invasion.
The British Government on Saturday accused Moscow of attempting to form a pro-Russian government in Ukraine, Reuters reports. The British Foreign Office identified Yevhen Murayev, a former Ukrainian legislator, as the leader Russia was seeking to install in Kyiv.
Ukrinform reports that Poland has joined Ukraine in assessing recent cyberattacks against Ukrainian targets as the work of Russian intelligence services.
Russia has conducted extensive influence operations in connection with its ambitions in Ukraine. They have tended to represent Ukraine as a threat to Russia, not only in its policy, but also in its growing alignment with NATO and internal ethnic fissures that, Russia argues, render the country dangerously unstable. The US State Department offers a summary and assessment (a negative assessment, it need hardly be noted) of recent Russian influence operations.
MIT Technology Review describes how Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine could have effects that spread to other parts of the world. There is, of course, the likelihood that Russian retaliation against countries that have supported Ukraine in the present conflict would take the form of cyberattacks. But the experience of both NotPetya and WannaCry indicate that cyber effects are difficult to control, whether the Russian services lost control of those attacks or were simply indifferent to the collateral damage they worked, in both cases the effects spread well beyond the immediate Ukrainian targets. The NotPetya attack of 2017 affected shipping and logistics companies worldwide; the US estimated the global costs inflicted by the pseudoransomware incident at more than $10 billion.
NATO is increasing the readiness of forward-deployed forces along its Eastern flank. The Guardian notes that a number of members of the alliance have deployed warships (to the Baltic, for the most part), aircraft, and ground forces into the theater. The European Union has promised €1.2 billion in loans and grants to help Ukraine cope with the financial consequences of an invasion.
Sanctions are also under discussion. The US is considering implementing a "novel" set of sanctions (as the Washington Post calls them) intended to cripple Russian strategic industries, including its technology sector. TheHill lists the sectors most likely to be affected: "artificial intelligence, maritime, defense, and civilian aviation sectors." The sanctions would include strict control of exports of "all microelectronics designed with US software or technology or produced using US equipment."
The US State Department has directed the families of American diplomats to leave Ukraine, and has given assigned diplomats permission to leave should they so desire. State is also warning US citizens to avoid travel to Ukraine and Belarus.
The CyberWire's continuing coverage of the crisis in Ukraine may be followed here.