U.S. officials believe that leaked documents about the U.S. war effort in Ukraine that have appeared online are likely to be true and misleading, but some of the documents may have been changed before they were posted, a senior U.S. official said on Saturday.
The official described the government as “working theory” pending an investigation and review.
The documents, posted in recent days as images on Twitter and Telegram, outline Ukraine’s military strength, the state of the conflict, the number of casualties and the rate of fire for the long-range HIMARS missile systems that the US supplied to Ukraine. Some of them bear the date of March 1st.
“We are aware of the social media reports and the Department is reviewing the matter,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said on Friday.
The Justice Department has begun an investigation, he said on Friday. “We have been in communication with the defense regarding this matter and the question,” said the spokesman, “we decline further comment.”
The documents appear to reveal what the US has learned through intelligence signals – intercepted electronic communications – about Russian plans and operations. A US intelligence official once said that there could be serious deception if a stream of intelligence signals was detected in Russia.
The New York Times first reported in documents.
It is not known who is behind the alleged leak.
After reports of Leak, Ukraine he said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and top police and military security officials discussed ways to prevent the leak of military information during Friday’s meeting.
According to a * the investigator at Bellingcat, an online investigative group, the documents first appeared on an anonymous 4chan image board in March.
Various versions of the documents have appeared online since then, citing different figures for the Russian army’s casualties during the war. The various versions and the fact that the casualty numbers are far below the estimates of independent military analysts and the Pentagon have fueled speculation that the documents have been altered.
In one version, the number of Russian soldiers killed in the battle is 16,000 to 17,500, compared to the alleged 71,500 Ukrainian soldiers killed.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley, in November, said that at the time nearly 100,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded in the war, and that Ukraine had suffered similar casualties.
Documents, including maps and media files, look complicated and then explained.
John Sullivan, the former US ambassador to Russia and deputy secretary of state, told NBC News’ Andrew Mitchell on Friday that the documents should be handled more carefully.
“There are some indications that… there are some aspects of the document that have some authenticity, but there are also indications that this is Russian disinformation, which is very good,” Sullivan said.
In the Russian media, coverage of the document “has been largely muted,” said Bret Schafer, a senior fellow at the German Marshals’ Alliance for the Security of Democracies. “Almost everything he reported was quoted directly by others to keep them as distant as possible.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to President Zelenskyy, said in a after on Telegram that documents “bluff” in Russia and if Moscow had access to secret information, it would not display the information and the risk of losing important intelligence.
“If you need a channel to receive intelligence from the Pentagon, you don’t just break it down for the day of the news. If you have information about the level of support and the enemy’s war plans, pretend you don’t have it,” said Podolyak.
“If you want to pretend that you know something, then you know nothing. This is brutal, dust in the eyes.
The alleged leak comes amid much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive as the weather heats up. Podolyak said, “As for the real counteroffensive plans, the Russian forces will certainly know them first. I assume that will happen soon.’
Michael Kosnar collated.