The United States believes that Russia or pro-Russian forces leaked classified war documents and altered their data in a propaganda act that is detrimental to the Ukrainian military’s upcoming planned counteroffensive against Russian troops. The documents were published on the social networks Twitter and Telegram, the latter with a wide reach in the Russian population. The Pentagon has already opened an investigation to find those responsible for the leak.
Senior officials of the US President Joe Biden’s Administration confirmed the leak of classified documents detailing strategic plans by Washington and NATO to support the Ukrainian Army in a possible counteroffensive against Russian troops within days or weeks.
The documents mention, for example, the rate of spending on HIMARS — US-supplied high-mobility artillery rocket systems — that can launch strikes against targets such as ammunition depots, infrastructure, and troop concentrations, from a distance. Information that was secret until a few days ago due to the caution of the Pentagon, but is now known by millions of cyber users.
However, the documents do not detail the military moves of the plan for the next Ukrainian counteroffensive. What they do offer is an up-to-date perspective on the Ukrainian military’s intent and the American vision during the last month of war.
This leak of classified war documents compromising NATO and the United States is somewhat unusual. During the first year of the war, Russia’s military information is what has generally been leaked by the Ukrainian intelligence services with the help of the United States; which has allowed successful Ukrainian counteroffensives and strong blows to the Russian Army with the death of high-ranking generals.
What worries the Pentagon the most is the alleged alteration by third parties of the data and figures provided by the secret documents., and also that these circulate on social networks such as Telegram with a reach of 500 million Russian citizens. Therefore, classified information could serve as a propaganda weapon for Russia to misinform about the current situation of the war in Ukraine.
According to Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, the leak contained a “large amount of fictitious information” and appeared to be a Russian disinformation operation to cast doubt on Ukraine’s planned counter-offensive.
“These are just standard elements of Russian intelligence operational games. And nothing more,” Mykhailo Podolyak said in a written statement.
Meanwhile, there is still no formal response from Russia to the allegations of the leak..
Disinformation war: the veracity of the data in classified documents
The death toll of the Ukrainian and Russian sides in the war has been the focus of the disinformation war. According to the original leaked documents, the Pentagon and other analysts have estimated that Russia has suffered close to 200,000 deaths and injuries, while Ukraine has had more than 100,000 deaths and injuries. But in the version circulating on Twitter and Telegram, the death toll on the Russian side is between 16,000 and 17,500 soldiers, while Ukraine would have suffered up to 71,500 soldier deaths.
Analysts consulted by the American newspaper ‘The New York Times’which revealed the complaint by Biden administration officials about the leak, warned that documents released by Russian sources could be selectively altered to present the Kremlin’s disinformation.
The Pentagon has refused to comment on the authenticity of the documents circulating on Twitter and Telegram, which are dated March 1 and have markings classifying them as “top secret” and “top secret.” But the Department of Defense launched an investigation, saying that such a sensitive document leak is highly unusual.
Despite the alteration of some figures, the concern expressed by the United States about the leak of the classified documents could show that at least certain parts are authentic. According to the analysts consulted by the ‘Times’, they would provide Russia with valuable information such as the schedules for the delivery of arms and troops by Washington and NATO to Ukraine, the number of Ukrainian troops and other military details.
Ukraine’s response to leaks of classified documents
At the start of the war, Ukraine was reluctant to share its battle plans with the United States for fear of leaks, according to US and European officials. This time his fear seems to have come true just at a decisive moment in the war in eastern Ukraine, with Bakhmut about to fall into Russian hands and with both Kiev and Moscow intent on launching new large-scale offensives.
The denunciation of the leak of the documents that concern the military support of NATO and the United States to the Ukrainian Army in the next offensive against the invading troops provoked a meeting of the presidential office and of the supreme command of the armed forces from Ukraine. However, Ukrainian officials are cautious and call for calm; they claim that they are verifying the authenticity of the leaked documents and conclude that it is just a propaganda game by Russia.
The Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelenski, was present at the meeting this Friday, who did not mention that there had been a leak. However, the objective of the meeting was to prevent future leaks of military information.
“The meeting participants focused on measures to prevent the leak of information about the plans of the defense forces of Ukraine,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.
It was not clear if the discussions focused on preventing leaks within Ukraine or among the Western partners with which it now shares information.
With Reuters and local media