Russia seeks to meddle in the upcoming Ukraine elections, that's according to the U.S. national intelligence report on this year's global threats.
The national intelligence report's section on Russia and its neighbors says Russia is taking steps to influence Ukraine's presidential election in March 2019 and parliamentary elections scheduled for this fall, according to the Voice of America.
Speaking at the Senate intelligence committee hearing on January 29, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said: "We also expect Russia will use cyber techniques to influence Ukraine's upcoming presidential election."
Hoping to remove Petro Poroshenko from top office in Ukraine and aiming to bring to power a less anti-Russian parliament, the report says, Russia seeks to exploit such issues existing in Ukraine as fragile economy, widespread corruption, cyber vulnerabilities, and public discontent.
There is no clear favorite in the Ukrainian presidential race, intelligence officials admit.
A large number of candidates for presidency, as well as a high level of distrust in political elite and the lack of a clear leader in the race could provide an opportunity for Poroshenko's opponents and less prominent candidates and rookies in politics to address Ukrainian voters, most of whom have not yet made up their mind.
Addressing the issue of a possible full-scale attack on Ukraine by Russia, the U.S. intelligence sees this option as operationally feasible but unlikely in 2019.
The U.S. intelligence community believes tensions will be mounting in the Azov and Black Seas as both sides will further affirm their sovereign rights and capabilities at sea.
Russia will pursue political and economic destabilization of Ukraine to hinder Kyiv's efforts toward EU integration and strengthening ties with NATO.
The interception of Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait and capture of their crews back in November 2018 shows Russia's readiness to restrict Ukraine's freedom of navigation in the region and exert political pressure on the country's leadership, especially ahead of the Ukraine elections this year.
The report concludes that Russia will try to maintain and, if possible, extend its influence in the countries of the former Soviet Union, which Moscow believes are all in the sphere of such influence.