In February, as the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine approached, Ukrainian officials were planning bold strikes deep behind Russia's lines, according to a leaked classified report from the US National Security Agency (NSA).
The Washington Post reported on Monday, April 24, that discussions were underway about a potential sea-based strike “using TNT in Novorossiysk, a Black Sea port city,” as a symbolic demonstration of Ukraine's ability to strike deep into enemy territory.
However, officials in Washington, according to the publication, were secretly monitoring these plans and were concerned that such attacks within Russia could provoke a strong response from the Kremlin.
Just two days before the anniversary of the Russian invasion, a new classified report from the CIA circulated, stating that Ukraine’s military intelligence service (HUR) had agreed to postpone the strikes on Moscow at the request of Washington. The leaked documents do not detail who intervened and why the Ukrainians chose to stand down.
The leaked documents highlight the underlying tension between Ukraine and the United States in their approach to the war. While Kyiv wants to take the fight to Russian soil, Washington is cautious about any move that could escalate the conflict into a direct confrontation between American and Russian forces.
American officials are particularly apprehensive about attacks on Russia that involve US-supplied weaponry, as they consider it a high-risk operation that could prompt President Vladimir Putin to use tactical nuclear weapons.
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Despite the postponement of the planned attacks, mysterious drone strikes and explosions continue to occur in Russia, with Ukrainian officials hinting they are responsible without claiming credit. Such operations fall under the purview of Defence Intelligence, but Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the agency, does not admit responsibility.
However, he has cautioned that the attacks will persist. Budanov did not comment on the leaked documents, while US officials refrained from commenting on the anniversary strikes. Privately, US and European officials acknowledge their admiration for Budanov, but his audacity sometimes makes them nervous.
On the same day that the NSA document stated that Budanov had instructed one of his officers to be prepared for an operation likely aimed at Novorossiysk, the United States issued a public advisory for its citizens in Russia to leave the country immediately.
It remains unclear whether the warning anticipated a possible Ukrainian strike, but it suggests that the US was concerned about attacks around the anniversary.
The leaked documents also reveal that the US intelligence community is monitoring the communications of the head of Ukrainian Intelligence, which doesn’t seem to surprise the general. In previous interviews, Budanov has played music or static white noise in his office at HUR headquarters, possibly aware that he was being spied on.
According to a senior Ukrainian official cited by the publication, Kyiv’s cooperation with the United States and restraint from firing on specific targets should persuade the US to supply more advanced and longer-range weapons, such as the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which can travel up to 300 kilometers.
However, the Biden administration has declined to provide the weapon, as it’s in limited supply and could be perceived as a US escalation by Russia, according to White House officials.
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