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The Pentagon is investigating documents that appear to detail classified information about the war in Ukraine after they circulated on social media this week, according to a statement Friday, though little is known about who may be behind the leak.
Biden Administration officials confirmed to the New York Times the documents—which circulated on Twitter and Telegram—detailed secret plans by the U.S. and NATO for building up the Ukrainian military in advance of a counteroffensive against Russia, though it was initially unknown whether they were legitimate.
Senior officials confirmed to Politico the documents were real and were produced by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but they appeared to have been doctored—they included exaggerated U.S. estimates of Ukrainian casualties and an underestimate for Russian casualties.
The documents are also five weeks old and provide month-old information for what Ukrainian troops may need for the war, according to the New York Times, while they also do not provide specific battle plans.
Some documents appear to describe how quickly Ukrainian forces were using munitions for U.S.-provided rocket-systems, photographs of anticipated weapons deliveries, troop and battalion strengths and other plans.
One document labeled “top secret” outlined an ongoing conflict in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, while another listed Ukraine’s forces for an upcoming counteroffensive, according to the Financial Times, though an adviser to the Ukrainian military said the information was not sensitive and “could have been worked out.”
Though the documents do not provide sensitive or timely information, military analysts told the Times the leak represents a significant breach in U.S. intelligence and could harm how intelligence is shared between the U.S. and Ukraine.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on Telegram the documents were a “bluff, dust in the eyes” and suggested the documents were released by Russian officials in an effort to “influence” a Ukrainian counteroffensive, adding they had “nothing to do with Ukraine’s real plans.” In a statement Friday, the Ukrainian government said Zelensky met with military officials to discuss preventing “the leakage of information regarding the plans of the defense forces of Ukraine.”
Grey Zone, a Telegram channel associated with the Kremlin-linked mercenary organization Wagner Group, claim the documents are “disinformation” spread by Ukraine “in order to mislead” Russian command. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov did not directly reference the documents in a statement to CNN, but did say “we don’t have the slightest doubt” the U.S. and NATO are involved in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
What We Don’t Know
It is still unknown who is responsible for leaking—or modifying—the documents, despite claims by Russian and Ukrainian forces that either side was responsible.
What To Watch For
The White House has yet to respond to the document leak.
Ukrainian forces have been engaged in a conflict by Bakhmut, an eastern Ukrainian city in the Donetsk Oblast region, for months. It is expected that Ukraine would launch a counteroffensive against Russian forces in the region as the level of fighting has decreased in recent weeks. Zelensky told the Associated Press that defending Bakhmut was necessary because he believes Russia could rally international support for a peace treaty that would require Ukraine to make “unacceptable” compromises if the city was lost.
Ukraine War Plans Leaks Prompts Pentagon Investigation (New York Times)