Ukraine says Russia will step up its hybrid attacks in spring

Ukrainian servicemen visit an exhibition displaying destroyed Russian military vehicles in central Kyiv

KYIV (Reuters) - Russia will escalate an ongoing influence operation this spring aimed at destabilising Ukraine and scuppering international support for Kyiv in its two-year-old war with Moscow, Ukrainian intelligence warned on Tuesday.

Ukraine is struggling to fend off Russian troops along much of the front line as Kyiv faces challenges in replenishing its ranks and a potential cut in U.S. military aid.

The Kremlin will bolster its invasion by stepping up efforts to seed disinformation on social media, sparking conflict among Ukrainians and sowing doubt among Kyiv's allies of its chances for victory, according to a presidential intelligence committee.

"During the coming weeks the enemy will make every effort to spread narratives that are destructive to world security and attempt to incite conflicts - both inside Ukraine and in other parts of the world where there is support for Ukraine," it said.

There was no immediate comment from Russia about the statement. The Kremlin said earlier this week that Ukraine had been receiving help from the CIA to counter Russia for more than a decade.

Russia casts its invasion as an attempt to "de-nazify" Ukraine, which it claims was taken over by "fascists" after a pro-democracy revolution in 2014 that ousted a Moscow-backed president.

Kyiv and its international partners say the war is part of a years-long hybrid effort by Moscow to subjugate Ukraine as it embraces the West.

In a statement carried by Kyiv's domestic security and military spy agencies, the committee said the operation would culminate in late May, when President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's five-year-mandate would normally run out.

Elections in Ukraine are suspended under martial law, which has been in effect since Russia's invasion.

"The methodology of the campaign is typical for Russian special services: to question the legitimacy of government decisions made in Ukraine after May 20, to spread panic and despair, to artificially pit civilians against the military, to make us quarrel with our allies, to spread all kinds of 'conspiracy theories' in society," it said.

It added that Russian forces would attempt to exploit the situation to inflict a battlefield loss in the east.

Zelenskiy warned earlier this week that Russian forces, which recently captured the strategic city of Avdiivka, could attempt another offensive in late May or early summer.

(Reporting by Dan Peleschuk; Additional reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)