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Heads of U.S. intelligence say Russian forces acting with 'reckless disregard'

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Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines gives her opening statement during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/3b4b9d6f9ac8885b51cfe37bb366e3c7/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines gives her opening statement during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

March 8 (UPI) -- National Intelligence Director Avril Haines said Russian forces are acting with "reckless disregard" for the safety of civilians with continuing strikes on urban areas in Ukraine.

Haines was among leaders of the U.S. intelligence committee who laid out their concerns on Tuesday during a hearing about threats posed by Russia's war in Ukraine, from the initial attack to cyber challenges.

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Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, CIA Director William Burns, and National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone also addressed the House Intelligence Committee about their assessments.

Haines said agents believe Russian President Vladimir Putin underestimated the resistance of the Ukrainians, which has driven him to resort to more desperate means.

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"The human toll is already considerable," Haines told the committee. "The Russian and Ukrainian militaries have probably already suffered thousands of casualties along with numerous civilian deaths.

"Moreover, Russian forces are operating with reckless disregard for the safety of noncombatants as Russia launches artillery and airstrikes into urban areas as they have done in cities across Ukraine."

Burns said Putin has isolated himself even within the already small Moscow power structure where those closest to him have learned not to questions his actions and his motives. Because of that, it makes it difficult for him to be persuaded by outside forces.

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"Putin is determined to control and dominate Ukraine, to shape its orientation," Burns said. "It's a matter of deep personal conviction of him. He's been stewing in a combustible combination of grievance and ambition for many years. That personal conviction matters more than ever in the Russian system. He's created a circle of advisers that's gets narrower and narrower."

Burns said, though, despite Russia's significant military advantages he sees signs that Ukraine will continue to resist "effectively."

Nakasone said they are focused on cyber activity including the use of ransomware as a means to make money. He said there is also a concern about malicious attacks on Ukrainian Internet infrastructure that will have a spillover affect into other systems.

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He said that surveillance is being done with a wide range of partners domestically and internationally along with others in the private sector. Wray said he is especially concerned about the possibility of spillover attacks as Russia ramps up its cyberattacks against Ukraine.

"[Russia] has shown a history of not being able to manage it as well as they intend," Wray said of Russia's past malicious cyber activities. "On ransomware, we are concerned about cybercriminals, many of whom are based in Russia, either acting in support of the Russian government" or taking advantage of the lax cyber rules in the country.

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The committee's hearing comes almost two weeks after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and as Russian forces continue to make advances in the Eastern European nation. It also comes on the same day President Joe Biden announced a ban on U.S. imports of Russian oil.

Scenes from the Russian war on Ukraine

European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo

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