The US warned Ukraine off conducting a highly provocative strike on Moscow on the anniversary of the war, the latest leaked Pentagon papers have revealed.
Kyiv’s military intelligence followed Washington’s orders and postponed the strikes, according to a tranche of classified documents seen by the Washington Post.
Ukraine’s head of military intelligence (HUR), who is in charge of operations on foreign soil, instructed officers to prepare for “mass strikes” on February 24 this year, with “everything the HUR had”.
Plans for strikes on Russia by Ukraine are likely to have made officials anxious in Washington, as the US has publicly warned that the weapons they supply to Ukraine should not be used to hit targets across the border.
On February 22, two days before the anniversary, the CIA dispatched a classified memo informing US officials that the HUR “had agreed, at Washington’s request, to postpone strikes” on the Russian capital.
The incidents coincided with Russia placing air defences on buildings in Moscow, in a sign they were anticipating a strike on home soil.
Washington’s intervention ahead of the anniversary of the war had only limited success.
Just a week after the anniversary, Russia accused Kyiv of attempting drone strikes on infrastructure within its borders, including near the capital.
The CIA memo noted that while the HUR had agreed to postpone its strikes, there was “no indication” Ukraine’s security service (SBU) “agreed to postpone its own plans to attack Moscow around the same date” .
The HUR oversees operations on foreign soil, however the SBU, which reports directly to Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, also conducts special operations.
According to the documents, among the plans the HUR were considering was a TNT strike in Novorossiysk, a port city on the Black Sea in southern Russia, the Washington Post reported.
The sea-based strike would be largely symbolic, but would demonstrate Ukraine’s ability to hit deep within Russian territory.
The leaked documents make clear that the US is monitoring the communications of Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, Major Gen Kyrylo Budanov.
The 37-year-old, seen as a rising star in the Ukrainian military, appears to be aware he is being spied on.
The Washington Post reported that in previous interviews he has played music or static noise in his office at the HUR’s headquarters.
It is unclear which US officials made the request and why the HUR agreed to it.
The Biden administration has tightly controlled the supply of US weaponry to Kyiv amid fears it could provoke a dangerous response from the Kremlin.
The Pentagon has taken deliberate measures to prevent its missiles being used by Kyiv to strike within Russia.
The leaks were dismissed in Kyiv by one of Mr Zelensky’s closest advisers.
He said the reports “fulfil only one catastrophic function: they shape public opinion in Western capitals as if Ukraine was an unreasonable, infantile, and impulsive country that is dangerous for adults to trust with serious weapons”.
He added: “Ukraine sees things differently. We approach the war with ironclad mathematical logic: we need long-range missiles to destroy Russian logistics in the occupied territories and various types of aircraft to protect the sky and destroy Russian fortifications. These are the main components of successful counteroffensive operations and minimisation of losses. Maybe it’s time to stop playing with excuses and back-alley realpolitik while the war is still ongoing and people are dying?”
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