Leaked documents showing details apparently relating to NATO support for a planned Ukrainian counteroffensive may have been released by Russian intelligence for a “psychological impact,” according to one expert.
The U.S. Defense Department is investigating after classified files purportedly breaking down military support for Kyiv from the United States and NATO countries were leaked online. The documents appear to show an evaluation of Kyiv’s forces and its requirements for a planned spring counteroffensive, as evaluated at the beginning of last month.
The documents appeared on social media, including Telegram and Twitter, but appear to have been “modified,” The New York Times reported. This may “point to an effort of disinformation by Moscow,” the report added, in what it described as a “significant breach of American intelligence in the effort to aid Ukraine.”
“We are aware of the reports of social media posts and the department is reviewing the matter,” Sabrina Singh, Pentagon deputy press secretary, confirmed in a statement to Newsweek.
There are “several options” on how to interpret this leaked information, according to Marina Miron, post-doctoral researcher at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. It’s possible that they were leaked by Russian intelligence agencies for a “psychological impact,” she told Newsweek.
It would serve to “highly undermine” the information sharing operations that Kyiv has been carrying out with its Western backers, she said, adding that Moscow’s intelligence agencies “are known for these types of leaks.”
“The Russians could then spin the narrative to their advantage,” she said.
On Friday, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Russia did not doubt that the U.S. or NATO were directly or indirectly involved in Ukraine, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.
However, there is also the possibility that Ukrainian intelligence services could have been behind the leak to “deceive” or “confuse” Moscow, Miron said, adding that some Russian sources had suggested the leak was “information sabotage to disorient” Russia’s military.
Andriy Yusov, a representative of Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, dismissed the documents circulating online as fake on Friday.
“From a preliminary analysis of these materials, we see false figures on losses from both sides,” he told Ukrainian media.
“The timing of the leak is also interesting,” Miron said, pointing to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indicating Kyiv would be prepared to enter talks about Crimea should their upcoming counteroffensive against Russia be successful. This was rejected by Moscow as off the table, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.
Moscow illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula, to the south of mainland Ukraine, in 2014. It has retained control over the territory since then, but Kyiv has vowed to reclaim the peninsula.
“From this perspective, this would divert the attention of the Russian forces from possible [real] attack vectors,” Miron said.
Zelensky’s office said on Friday that Kyiv’s leadership was focusing on “measures to prevent the leakage of information regarding the plans” of Ukraine’s armed forces. Meanwhile, Mykhailo Podolyak, the head of Zelensky’s office, wrote on Twitter on Friday morning that Moscow was “eager to disrupt” a Ukrainian counteroffensive, calling the documents “photoshop & ‘virtual fake leaks.'”
Ultimately, discovering who is responsible for the leak will help determine the reliability of the documents, Miron added, saying it’s still “too early to tell from which side it is coming” from.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian and Ukrainian defense ministries for comment via email.
Time will tell what the truth is about these “documents”. I would wager that they are fakes, either from Ukrainian sources or from mafia ones. But, as soon as the counterattack commences, this news will be ice-cold.