Zelensky plotted attacks deep inside Russia – WaPo

Zelensky plotted attacks deep inside Russia – WaPo

The Ukrainian leader reportedly wanted to “occupy” Russian cities to gain leverage over Moscow
Zelensky plotted attacks deep inside Russia – WaPo

Despite public assurance that he would limit military action to his own country’s 1991 borders, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky formed plans to conduct attacks deep inside Russia and suggested that Kiev “destroy” the industry of Hungary, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing leaked Pentagon documents.

Citing US intelligence reports recently published on a gaming server, the Post described how Zelensky suggested at a meeting in January that his troops “conduct strikes in Russia,” while moving across the border to “occupy unspecified Russian border cities” in order to “give Kiev leverage in talks with Moscow.”

Less than two months later, the Ukraine-based Russian Volunteer Corps launched a cross-border raid that left two civilians dead in Russia’s Bryansk Region. A member of the group told Western media that Kiev had approved the attack, and further assaults have taken place since.

With Ukraine’s Western backers reluctant until recently to provide him with long-range missiles for fear he would use them against targets within Russia, Zelensky suggested to his top military commander, General Valery Zaluzhny, that he use drones to “attack unspecified deployment locations in Rostov” in February, the Post reported.

Prior to and after the alleged meeting, Ukrainian forces used drones to attack infrastructure in Rostov Region, which borders the formerly Ukrainian territory of Lugansk.

In a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Svridenko in February, Zelensky reportedly suggested that Ukraine “blow up” the Druzhba oil pipeline, which transports Russian oil to Hungary. According to the US report cited by the Post, Zelensky suggested that “Ukraine should just blow up the pipeline and destroy…Hungarian [Prime Minister] Viktor Orban’s industry, which is based heavily on Russian oil.”

American spies listening to his meeting with Svridenko concluded that Zelensky was issuing “hyperbolic, meaningless threats.” Nevertheless, the Druzhba pipeline has come under attack on several occasions since the meeting, most recently when it was hit by drone-dropped explosives on Wednesday.

The Post’s article corroborates a CNN report last month claiming that US spies have been intercepting Zelensky’s communications.

Contacted by the newspaper, Zelensky dismissed the incidents described in the report as “fantasies,” and claimed that “no one in our country has given orders for offensives or strikes on Russian territory.”

This is plainly not the case. Apart from the above mentioned Bryansk raids and Rostov drone strikes, the Russian regions of Belgorod and Kursk have been shelled by Kiev’s forces in recent months, Moscow has blamed Ukrainian terrorists for bombing the Crimean Bridge and attempting to assassinate President Vladimir Putin, and one of Ukraine’s top intelligence chiefs has taken credit for the assassination of several Russian public figures.

Such acts of terrorism, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement earlier this month, will “not be left unanswered.”

Here is the report from the Washington Post

THE DISCORD LEAKS | U.S. intercepts reveal the Ukrainian’s leader’s aggressive instincts, a marked contrast to his public-facing image as the stoic statesman weathering Russia’s brutal onslaught

By John Hudson and Isabelle Khurshudyan
May 13, 2023 at 3:13 p.m. EDT
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has won the trust of Western governments by refusing to use the weapons they provide for attacks inside Russia and prioritizing the targeting of Russian forces inside Ukraine’s borders.
But behind closed doors, Ukraine’s leader has proposed going in a more audacious direction — occupying Russian villages to gain leverage over Moscow, bombing a pipeline that transfers Russian oil to Hungary, a NATO member, and privately pining for long-range missiles to hit targets inside Russia’s borders, according to classified U.S. intelligence documents detailing his internal communications with top aides and military leaders.
The documents, which have not been previously disclosed, are part of a broader leak of U.S. secrets circulated on the Discord messaging platform and obtained by The Washington Post. They reveal a leader with aggressive instincts that sharply contrast with his public-facing image as the calm and stoic statesman weathering Russia’s brutal onslaught. The insights were gleaned through intercepted digital communications, providing a rare look at Zelensky’s deliberations amid Russian missile barrages, infrastructure attacks and war crimes.
The Pentagon, where senior U.S. military leaders were briefed on the matters outlined in the leaked documents, did not dispute the authenticity of the materials.
Dozens of highly classified documents have been leaked online, revealing sensitive information intended for senior military and intelligence leaders. In an exclusive investigation, The Post also reviewed scores of additional secret documents, most of which have not been made public.
Who leaked the documents? Jack Teixeira, a young member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was charged in the investigation into leaks of hundreds of pages of classified military intelligence. The Post reported that the individual who leaked the information shared documents with a small circle of online friends on the Discord chat platform.
What do the leaked documents reveal about Ukraine? The documents reveal profound concerns about the war’s trajectory and Kyiv’s capacity to wage a successful offensive against Russian forces. According to a Defense Intelligence Agency assessment among the leaked documents, “Negotiations to end the conflict are unlikely during 2023.”
What else do they show? The files include summaries of human intelligence on high-level conversations between world leaders, as well as information about advanced satellite technology the United States uses to spy. They also include intelligence on both allies and adversaries, including Iran and North Korea, as well as Britain, Canada, South Korea and Israel.
What happens now? The leak has far-reaching implications for the United States and its allies. In addition to the Justice Department investigation, officials in several countries said they were assessing the damage from the leaks.


In some cases, Zelensky is seen restraining the ambitions of his subordinates; in several others, he is the one proposing risky military actions.
In a meeting in late January, Zelensky suggested Ukraine “conduct strikes in Russia” while moving Ukrainian ground troops into enemy territory to “occupy unspecified Russian border cities,” according to one document labeled “top secret.” The goal would be “to give Kyiv leverage in talks with Moscow,” the document said.
In a separate meeting in late February with Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top military commander, Zelensky “expressed concern” that “Ukraine does not have long-range missiles capable of reaching Russian troop deployments in Russia nor anything with which to attack them.” Zelensky then “suggested that Ukraine attack unspecified deployment locations in Rostov,” a region in western Russia, using drones instead, according to another classified document.
In a meeting in mid-February with Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Svrydenko, Zelensky suggested Ukraine “blow up” the Soviet-built Druzhba pipeline that provides oil to Hungary. “Zelenskyy highlighted that … Ukraine should just blow up the pipeline and destroy likely Hungarian [Prime Minister] Viktor Orban’s industry, which is based heavily on Russian oil,” the document says.
In detailing the conversation, intelligence officials concede that Zelensky was “expressing rage toward Hungary and therefore could be making hyperbolic, meaningless threats,” a qualification that does not accompany the other accounts of Zelensky suggesting bold military action. Though Hungary is nominally part of the Western alliance, Orban is widely considered Europe’s most Kremlin-friendly leader.
When asked if he had suggested occupying parts of Russia, Zelensky, during an interview with The Post in Kyiv, dismissed the U.S. intelligence claims as “fantasies” but defended his right to use unconventional tactics in the defense of his country.
“Ukraine has every right to protect itself, and we are doing it. Ukraine did not occupy anyone, but vice versa,” Zelensky said. “When so many people have died and there have been mass graves and our people have been tortured, I am sure that we have to use any tricks.”
The use of long-range missiles to hit inside Russia is a particularly sensitive topic for the White House, which has long worried that the Ukraine conflict could escalate out of control and force a catastrophic standoff between the United States and Russia, the world’s largest nuclear powers.
Though Washington has given Zelensky billions of dollars’ worth of advanced weaponry, President Biden has steadily rebuffed the Ukrainian leader’s request for long-range ATACMS, shorthand for the Army Tactical Missile System, capable of striking targets up to 185 miles away. Since the start of the war, Biden has said the United States is “not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.”
When asked about the intelligence indicating he had weighed the use of long-range missiles to hit Russia, Zelensky said it is not something Ukraine is entertaining. “No one in our country has given orders for offensives or strikes on Russian territory,” he said.
It is unclear whether the United States has shared accounts of Zelensky’s plotting with allied nations, but the Ukrainian president continues to enjoy the strong support of Western governments, which have provided him with an increasingly sophisticated array of weaponry.
This past week, Britain became the first Western country to provide Ukraine with long-range missiles. The Storm Shadow, a cruise missile system with stealth capabilities, has a range of 155 miles, far exceeding the 50-mile range of the U.S.-provided HIMARS launchers.
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said Friday that the missile would give Ukraine “the best chance” to defend itself and would be for use only “within Ukrainian sovereign territory.” A spokesman with the British Embassy in Washington declined to comment on whether Zelensky’s leaked remarks might give London pause about its decision.
The Biden administration says Zelensky’s intercepted comments are not the cause for withholding ATACMS.
“Ukraine has repeatedly committed to employ U.S.-provided weapons responsibly and strategically when needed to counter Russian aggression, and we are confident that will continue to be the case,” said a U.S. defense official who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic.
Since last year, Zelensky has promised that Ukraine would never use U.S. weapons to strike inside Russia, a pledge the White House says he has fulfilled.
“President Zelensky has kept the promises he has made to President Biden, and we do not believe that that will change,” said a senior administration official.
One reason for not providing the long-range missiles is the “relatively few ATACMS” the United States has for its own defense needs, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Defense One in March.
Zelensky, however, said he believes the United States isn’t sending the weapons because it doesn’t trust Kyiv.
“I think they are afraid that we might use them on the territory of Russia,” Zelensky told The Post. “But I would always tell our partners … ‘We have a priority target for which we are spending the ammunition packages we receive, and we spend it on the deoccupation of purely Ukrainian territories,’” he said.
While there is no indication that Ukraine has used Western missiles to strike into Russian territory, the same cannot be said for Kyiv’s use of armed drones.
Explosions caused by unmanned aerial vehicles have become a regular occurrence in Russia, including in Rostov, where a drone crashed into an oil refinery this month. Ukrainian officials are often coy about the incidents, hinting that they’re responsible without directly taking credit.
Two drone attacks in December on Russia’s Engels air base in Saratov, more than 370 miles from the Ukrainian border, showed “that we have the ability to reach many kilometers farther than they could expect,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said in an interview earlier this year.
Russia this month accused Ukraine of staging a drone attack intended to kill President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. Videos circulating on social media and verified by The Post show two drones streaking toward the Kremlin at about 2:30 a.m. local time. The allegation was forcefully denied by Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky.
One document describes a plan developed by Ukraine’s military intelligence agency last year to conduct covert attacks on Russian forces in Syria using secret Kurdish help. The detailed plot would have opened a new battlefield thousands of miles from Ukraine, but in December, Zelensky directed his aides to “cease planning for operations against Russian forces in Syria,” the document says, without explaining why the plan was aborted.
Zelensky, in the recent interview, said he reserved the right to explore a range of military options.
“I have a lot of generals with whom I work,” Zelensky said. “And these are my personal conversations.”
“The war is about the occupation of Ukraine,” he added. “Ukraine must win.”
Khurshudyan reported from Kyiv. Siobhán O’Grady in Kyiv contributed to this report.
Here is a follow-up:

WaPo deletes ‘treason’ quotes from Zelensky interview

The Ukrainian president reacted angrily when confronted about his own intelligence agents’ supposed “dealings” with Russia’s Wagner Group
WaPo deletes ‘treason’ quotes from Zelensky interview

The Washington Post has cut a large segment from an interview with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, in which he pushed the newspaper to reveal alleged traitors in his ranks and angrily accused its reporters of aiding Russia by publishing leaked documents.

The Post published a transcript of a lengthy interview with Zelensky on Saturday. After a discussion of a Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russian forces, the newspaper asked whether his military intelligence agency – the GUR – had “back-channel contact” with Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian private military company Wagner Group.

Citing recently leaked Pentagon documents, the Post explained to Zelensky that American spies noted a meeting between the president and GUR chief Kirill Budanov in February in which Budanov told him that he had learned of a Wagner plan to “destabilize Moldova,” but could counter this alleged plan by exposing his own “dealings” with Prigozhin, thus portraying the Wagner boss as “a traitor who has been working with Ukraine.”

Zelensky responded angrily, first asking who within his government had handed this document to the Post. Whoever it was, he said, was committing “treason,” which “is the most severe felony in our country.”

Despite being told that the document did not come from Kiev, but from Washington, Zelensky asked his interviewer to reveal “with which Ukrainian official did you talk?”

The Post has not yet published a story based on the document, and when informed that he was the first Ukrainian official the newspaper had spoken to, Zelensky urged his interviewer not to run the story, arguing that doing so would “demotivate Ukraine,” and accusing them of “playing games with me.”

“You are right now playing with, I think, things that aren’t good for our people,” he warned, asking the Post’s reporter “is your goal to help Russia?” When the reporter said that it was not, Zelensky countered “well, it looks different.”

By Sunday, however, the explosive exchange – during which Zelensky did not dispute that the meeting with Budanov had happened – was missing from the Post’s transcript. The entire 1,400-word back-and-forth about the document was removed, with no explanation given.

The Post’s edit is not the first incident in which Western governments or media outlets have scrubbed information potentially embarrassing or damaging to Kiev. Back in December, the European Commission deleted a video and its associated transcript in which Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the Ukrainian military had suffered 100,000 fatalities since Russia’s military operation began ten months earlier. 

Kiev keeps its losses a closely guarded secret, and when asked by the Washington Post to comment on this policy, Zelensky sniped “if you have the relevant documents, maybe you can tell us how many people have died…and what their names were.”

Here are the Zelensky ‘treason’ quotes the Washington Post deleted

The newspaper scrubbed an interview in which the Ukrainian leader lashed out when confronted with leaked documents
Here are the Zelensky ‘treason’ quotes the Washington Post deleted

The Washington Post has deleted a large tract of an interview with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in which he lashed out at alleged “traitors” in his ranks. RT is publishing the entire section that the US newspaper would rather keep hidden.

The following section appeared in an interview with the Ukrainian president published on Saturday. By Sunday it had been removed with no explanation. After discussing a trove of recently leaked Pentagon documents, which revealed – among other things – that the US monitors Zelensky’s communications, the newspaper presented him with a fresh allegation that has not yet been reported in the US media.

Note that Evgeny Prigozhin is the founder and head of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company currently fighting in the Donetsk People’s Republic.

WaPo: The documents indicate that GUR, your intelligence directorate, has back-channel contact with Evgeny Prigozhin that you were aware of, including meeting with Evgeny Prigozhin and GUR officers. Is that true?

Zelensky: This is a matter of [military] intelligence. Do you want me to be convicted of state treason? And so, it’s very interesting, if someone is saying that you have documents, or if someone from our government is speaking about the activities of our intelligence, I would also like to ask you a question: With which sources from Ukraine do you have contact? Who is talking about the activities of our intelligence? Because this is the most severe felony in our country. Which Ukrainians are you talking to?

WaPo: I talked to officials in government, but these documents are not from Ukraine, they are from…

Zelensky: It doesn’t matter where the documents are from. The question is with which Ukrainian official did you talk? Because if they say something about our intelligence, that’s treason. If they say something about a specific offensive plan of one general or another, this is also treason. That’s why I asked you, which Ukrainians are you talking to?

WaPo: About these specific documents? You are the first person I am talking to about them.

Zelensky: Okay.

WaPo: And I can read you what information exactly there is about Prigozhin and the GUR. On February 13, Kirill Budanov, chief of Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, informed you about a Russian plan to destabilize Moldova with two former Wagner associates. Budanov informed you that he viewed the Russian scheme as a way to incriminate Prigozhin because “we have dealings” with him. You instructed Budanov to inform Moldovan President Maia Sandu, and Budanov told you that the GUR had informed Prigozhin that he would be labeled a traitor who has been working with Ukraine. The document also says that Budanov expected the Russians to use details of Prigozhin’s secret talks with the GUR and meetings with GUR officers in Africa…

US had secret plan to kill Wagner PMC commanders – WaPo

Read more

US had secret plan to kill Wagner PMC commanders – WaPo

Zelensky: Listen, to be honest, well, you just read something, you say something. I just don’t understand where you get it, whom you talk to and so on. You talk about how I met with Budanov. This suggests that you – how do you put it? It looks like you have people who have some records or you have some evidence or you have something, because that’s what it looks like. You are again doing, I apologize, what you were doing before. You are releasing some sort of information that does not help our state to attack and does not help us to defend our state. So, I don’t quite understand what you are talking about. I don’t quite understand your goal. Is your goal to help Russia? I mean, that means we have different goals. If I’m not sitting at the same table with them, I don’t quite understand what we’re talking about. Each of these inquiries simply demotivates Ukraine, demotivates certain partners to help Ukraine. Well, one way or another, I just don’t understand your goal.

WaPo: Our goal is not to help Russia.

Zelensky: Well, it looks different.

WaPo: No one gave us this information personally. These were in the leaked documents, which do indicate, as I said earlier, that the United States is listening in on you.

Zelensky: And if you have classified documents, it means someone gave them to you. If you have access to documents, someone gave them to you. Today, in the world of modern technology, when you have access, it’s not necessarily someone gave it to you. You have access. You are now quoting some documents as originals, without understanding the responsibility for this, you are just talking about some information. For me, this is incomprehensible information, but in this, in our dialogue, I want to understand why you are doing this. I told you at the beginning of our conversation that I believe that the TV show that was launched, launched in the information field, helps – I don’t know who, but it helps Russia, it definitely doesn’t help Ukraine. You are engaged in continuing this story. And so, I ask you if it’s your choice and if you think that the Russian Federation needs to be helped in a variety of spheres – that they were expecting a Ukrainian counteroffensive in whichever direction, so that they know when we are coming, so that they know our powerful forces and what we are planning, what our intelligence is doing? Well, if that’s the case, then…

WaPo: I would say that these documents were leaked, not by us, and they were on the internet in a chatroom for weeks.

Zelensky plotted attacks deep inside Russia – WaPo

Read more

Zelensky plotted attacks deep inside Russia – WaPo

Zelensky: They were not on the internet, they were a part of something. We, the normal society, couldn’t access all of this. We couldn’t. And then, I think, information began to come out that we would partially publish everything else. I think it’s yours – or your editorial board, or whoever. I don’t want to offend anyone, I don’t know. That’s why you are releasing this information one by one today. You publish information about a counteroffensive in Ukraine, about this or that. I told you that I believe that this is, how to put it? – someone heard something somewhere, someone published something somewhere, but the information is compiled, and it is different, and it definitely does not work in Ukraine’s favor. That’s all. And now you want to take the bull by the horns. You need to substantiate or not substantiate this information, and then there will be a certain weight to your information, because the president of Ukraine reacts to it. Do you understand? And this is what you do. You are right now playing with, I think, things that aren’t good for our people. This is not the first time I’ve told you this. I think it’s wrong, but nevertheless, you say, “Just a little bit more, it’s not over yet.” Well, yes, it is. There are still a few people left in Ukraine. I am not interested in seeing this number of people decrease. That’s why we are fighting. [In English] I am so sorry, I was not so quick, I was too long about these documents. I don’t know about this…

WaPo: We came to talk to you about this. It is clearly sensitive for you and your country.

Zelensky: [In English] It is not sensitive. If I answer you that it’s sensitive, it means that these are real documents. Please, stop playing games with me. I am the president of a war country, a country in war. I said about my reaction to these documents, I said that it’s not good for our people. You know, I am not playing Counter-Strike. We are preparing a counteroffensive. You know, these are different things – that’s why I said all of the details from me you will hear. And of course, we are thankful for your work, your help when you support Ukraine in this war. You did a big job. And now I am saying about these documents…I don’t recognize it as documents. I didn’t see that. That is the first thing. I don’t know how you’ve got it and my question was to you: “Why are you continue doing that?” Okay. You are free. I mean, you will do what you want, but I don’t want to speak about it with details. Because I don’t know about what I am speaking. It’s something with some information. And I said that I didn’t have any contact with the White House about these documents. Or not documents. About these papers. Or not papers. About this platform. Or a fake platform…I didn’t have before, now, and, I don’t know, maybe in the future. I just say the same message very publicly and very open. I said it to you, with some journalist and to a lot of leaders. When they asked me about this, I said it’s not good for us. What can I say? It’s not good. I don’t know if it was fake or what a percent – I don’t know what it is. And I don’t know who needs it and what is the game. I don’t know what for. That’s it. For me, it’s not serious. It sounds like somebody said, somebody heard something…


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