Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense in 2022 was planning to attack Wagner Group PMC forces in Syria, using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and together with local Kurds, but President Zelensky put a halt to it, according to The Washington Post in a report published yesterday, April 20.
According to the report, a leaked top-secret US intelligence document has revealed that the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine was developing plans to conduct covert attacks on Russian troops and mercenaries of Wagner Group PMC in Syria, using secret assistance from local Kurds.
The Washington Post reported that the introduction of a new battlefield – thousands of miles from the war in Ukraine – appeared to be designed to impose costs and casualties on Russia and its Wagner paramilitary group, which is active in Syria, and possibly force Moscow to redeploy resources from Ukraine.
According to the leaked documents, a part of which was pictured in The Washington Post report, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky directed a halt to the planning in December. The leaked document, based on intelligence gathered as of Jan. 23, lays out in detail how the planning progressed and how such a campaign could proceed if Ukraine revived it.
However, Kyrylo Budanov, the Chief of Ukrainian Defence Intelligence, refused to comment on the document to The Washington Post.
The documents indicate that Ukrainian military intelligence officers favored striking Russian forces using UAVs and starting “small” – that is, possibly limiting their strikes only to forces of the Wagner mercenary group.
Ukrainian officers, The Washington Post said, also considered training operatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the military force of Syria’s Kurdish-controlled autonomous northeast, to strike Russian targets and conduct “unspecified ‘direct action’ activities along with UAV attacks.”
The leaked document, as The Washington Post noted, indicates that Türkiye was aware of the planning, stating that Turkish officials “sought to avoid potential blowback” and suggested that Ukraine stage its attacks from Kurdish areas instead of those in the north and northwest held by other rebel groups, with some of them being backed by Türkiye.
By Dec. 29, Ukrainian officers appear to have found out that Zelensky had halted their planning, The Washington Post said. It is uncertain why Zelensky ordered the Chief Intelligence Directorate to cease planning operations, but the document assesses that he may have done so for a variety of reasons: US pressure, Ukraine’s limited supply of drones or doubts about whether the attacks could succeed.
On April 7, The New York Times, citing sources in the White House, reported a data leak: allegedly classified military documents detailing US and NATO plans to build up the Ukrainian army before a planned counteroffensive had appeared on Twitter and Telegram.
Bellingcat investigators found that the classified data was distributed on March 1 and 2 on a , but the original source may have revealed the documents even earlier. The UK Defence Ministry warned of a “serious level of inaccuracy” in allegedly leaked US classified documents relating to the war in Ukraine.
Official investigations into the documents are ongoing and a low-level American serviceman has been arrested in that regard. Ukrainian officials have alternately dismissed the documents as fakes or as out-date.
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