U.S. officials believe the online release of U.S. documents about Ukraine’s war effort is genuine and may be the cause of the leak, but some documents may have been altered before they were released, a senior U.S. official said Saturday.
The official described it as the government’s “working theory” pending investigation and review.
The documents, released as photographs on Twitter and Telegram in recent days, outline Ukraine’s military strength, the level of the conflict, the number of casualties and the burn rate for the US-supplied HIMARS long-range rocket systems to Ukraine. Some of them have a date of March 1.
“We are aware of the reports from the social media posts, and the department is reviewing the matter,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Friday.
The Justice Department has launched its own investigation, a spokeswoman said Friday. “We have contacted the Department of Defense and launched an investigation into the matter,” the spokesperson said. “We decline further comment.”
The documents reveal what the U.S. learned through signals intelligence — intercepted electronic communications — about Russian plans and activities. A former U.S. intelligence official said the signals intelligence stream on Russia could have a serious fallout if it were exposed.
The New York Times First reported in the papers.
It is not known who is behind the alleged leak.
After reports of the leak, Ukraine said President Volodymyr Zelensky and top military and defense officials held a meeting on Friday to discuss ways to prevent leaks of military information.
A step Researcher On the online investigative group Bellingcat, the documents first appeared on the anonymous image board 4chan in March.
Different versions of the documents appeared online citing different figures for Russian troop deaths in the war. The differing versions and numbers far below independent military investigators and the Pentagon’s casualty estimates have fueled speculation that the documents have been altered.
One version claims that 71,500 Ukrainian soldiers were killed, while the number of Russian troops killed in action was between 16,000 and 17,500.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Mille, said in November that roughly 100,000 Russian troops had been killed or wounded in the war so far, and that Ukraine may have suffered similar casualties.
The documents, including drawings and lists of equipment, appear to have been folded and then smoothed.
John Sullivan, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia and deputy secretary of state, told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell on Friday that the documents should be handled with caution.
“There are some indications … that certain aspects of the document have some credibility to them, but there are also indications that this could be a Russian disinformation campaign, which are very good,” Sullivan said.
Russian state media documents are “extremely muted,” said Brett Schafer, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund’s Coalition for the Defense of Democracies. “All directly quoted the statement keeping others as far away as possible.”
Advisor to President Zelensky Mykhailo Podolyak, A Mail In Telegram, the documents were a Russian “bluff” and that if Moscow received classified information, it would not publicize the information and risk losing important intelligence.
“If you have a working channel to get intelligence from the Pentagon, you don’t destroy it for newsworthy headlines. If you have information about enemy support levels and military plans, you pretend you don’t have it,” Podoliak said.
“If you try to pretend you know something, you know nothing. There is dust in the eyes”
The leak comes amid widespread expectations of a Ukrainian counterattack as the weather heats up. Podoliak said, “As for the actual counter-offensive plans, Russian troops will certainly be familiar with them first. I think that will happen very soon.
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