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May 21, 2022
‘Putin is looking for an element of operational surprise’ in Ukraine crisis, says expert
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‘Putin is looking for an element of operational surprise’ in Ukraine crisis, says expert

/ Europe

Analysis

Issued on: 18/02/2022 – 11:33

13:16

Former intelligence officer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, Fiona Hill shares her insight with FRANCE 24. © France 24 screengrab

The West is concerned that Russia is seeking a pretext to invade Ukraine. After the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatist forces traded accusations over shelling in the eastern part of the country on Thursday, former intelligence officer and now senior fellow at the Brookings Institute Fiona Hill told FRANCE 24 that she believes Putin is looking for “an element of operational surprise, when he can catch [The West] off guard.”

“We’ve been very concerned … that there might be some kind of pretext for the outbreak of a conflict and then a potential Russian invasion. If we look back to 2008, when Russia went into Georgia … it also started off with something like this: shelling coming from the separatist area of South Ossetia over into the rest of Georgia, return of fire by the Georgians, and then, we had the invasion of the Russians into Georgia,” Hill, who was a US intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasian affairs before serving on the National Security Council, told FRANCE 24.

“We have to be extraordinarily careful, whenever there is an incident like [Thursday’s shelling], to be very sure what’s happening, getting full information, and to make sure it’s not then the precursor for a Russian military movement,” Hill added.

In response to a question from FRANCE 24’s international affairs commentator Douglas Herbert about when Putin might act, and who can stop him, Hill responded: “What [Putin] wants to have right now is operational surprise, we’ve already passed the February 16 deadline, when he was expected to do something…so he’s looking, again, for that element of operational surprise, when he can catch us off guard.”

Click on the player to watch the full interview.

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