According to senior Brandon administration officials, classified war documents that contained secret American and NATO plans to enhance the Ukrainian military before a planned offensive against Russia were posted on social media platforms this week.
The Pentagon is currently investigating who might be behind the leak of the documents, which were posted on Twitter and Telegram, a widely accessible platform in Russia with over half a billion users, the news site DNYUZ reported.
Some military analysts noted that certain parts of the documents had been altered from their original format, with American estimates of Ukrainian war fatalities being overstated and Russian troops killed being understated.
Military analysts have suggested that modifications in certain parts of the documents from their original format may be an effort of disinformation by Moscow. However, the disclosures in the original documents, which appear as photographs of charts of anticipated weapons deliveries, troop and battalion strengths, and plans, represent a significant breach of American intelligence in the effort to aid Ukraine.
The Brandon administration is currently working to get the documents deleted, but as of Thursday evening, they had not yet succeeded, the report stated.
“We are aware of the reports of social media posts and the department is reviewing the matter,” Sabrina Singh, the deputy press secretary at the Pentagon, noted on Thursday.
The leaked documents do not reveal any specific battle plans or the exact timing and location of the planned offensive. As they are about five weeks old, they represent a snapshot of the American and Ukrainian view as of March 1 of what Ukrainian troops might require for the campaign. However, to a Russian war planner, field general, or intelligence analyst, the documents may offer many important clues.
For instance, the documents mention the expenditure rate of HIMARS, American-supplied high mobility artillery rocket systems that can launch attacks against targets such as ammunition dumps, infrastructure, and concentrations of troops from a distance. The Pentagon has not disclosed publicly the speed at which Ukrainian troops are using the HIMARS munitions, but the documents do, said DNYUZ.
Military analysts have cautioned that briefing slides, which have been shared and circulated by pro-Russian government channels on social media, may have been selectively altered to promote the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign. While it is unclear how the documents ended up on social media, the analysts have expressed concern that the documents may not be entirely reliable due to potential manipulation.
Russia may not be buying the leak and has questioned the authenticity of the documents.
An analysis in RT.com, a ‘news’ outlet aligned with the Russian government, noted: “The ‘leak’ coincided with suggestions that the NATO Defender 2023 exercises – planned for the end of this month – could be a cover for an operation to supply and support Ukrainian units. However, upon closer examination, doubts arise concerning the document’s authenticity.”
“The supposed secret plans to support an offensive by Kiev’s forces hit the internet the day before Anthony Blinken made a statement on the subject. The US Secretary of State said the operation will begin ‘within a few weeks,’” the analysis continued.
“There hasn’t been a leak of this nature since Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine began, over 13 months ago. It is noteworthy that the published plans contain not only a schedule for supplying Ukrainian units with NATO weapons and ammunition, but also information about the structure of the brigades and battalions allegedly preparing for the offensive,” it added.
Others questioned whether the leak might actually be Russian disinformation.
Michael Kofman, the director of Russian studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington, Va.: “Whether these documents are authentic or not, people should take care with anything released by Russian sources.”