Ukraine 'forced to alter its counter-attack plans after leak'

Ukraine says it has been forced to alter its counter-attack plans after US intelligence leak revealed top secret military details – as Russia starts ‘scorched earth’ bombing of Bakhmut

  • Documents appear to contain highly classified US pentagon secrets
  • Ukrainian sources has said Kyiv has been forced to alter its military plans 

Ukraine says it has been forced to alter its plans for a spring counteroffensive after a leak of what appeared to be classified US intelligence documents revealed top secret military details, according to a report.

The documents, which emerged online, included details ranging from the war in Ukraine, China, the Middle East and Africa – and have US officials scrambling to identify the leak’s source, with some experts saying it could be an American.

Now, citing a source close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, CNN has reported that Ukraine has been forced to amend some of its military plans ahead of a much-vaunted counter-offensive because of the information revealed in the leaks.

Meanwhile, Russian forces are continuing to press attacks in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, focusing on two cities and pounding Ukrainian positions with air strikes and artillery barrages, Kyiv said on Monday.

The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces said the Russians were destroying buildings in besieged Bakhmut in what he called ‘scorched earth’ tactics as elsewhere a missile strike killed a father and his 11-year-old daughter.

Ukraine says it has been forced to alter its plans for a spring counteroffensive after a leak of what appeared to be classified US intelligence documents, as the commander of Kyiv’s ground forces said that Russia is resorting to using ‘scorched earth’ tactics in Bakhmut. Pictured: A Ukrainian service members ride a BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near the front line city of Bakhmut, April 6

An aerial view of Bakhmut, the site of heavy battles with Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, April 9. The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces said the Russians were destroying buildings and positions in the city as they continue their efforts to capture it

Bakhmut for months been the focus of the biggest and bloodiest battle of the war, now in its second year, and has resulted in tens of thousands of casualties. Pictured: Residential blocks in Bakhmut that have been left scorched by fighting in the city

Bakhmut for months been the focus of the biggest and bloodiest battle of the war, now in its second year, and has resulted in tens of thousands of casualties.

READ MORE: Putin’s 45-mile-long ‘mega trench’: Russian troops dig huge defensive fortification visible from space as they prepare for Ukrainian counterattack 


Russia has long claimed its forces are on the cusp of seizing the city, but Ukraine’s soldiers have continued to hold out as the country prepares to mount its latest counteroffensive to drive Russia further back east.

Kyiv’s forces proved capable of executing such offensives last year when they reclaimed vast swathes of territory in the north and south.

Plans for a new counteroffensive with the goal of repeating this success are said to have been in the works for months. However, after the leak of the apparent US documents, CNN reports that Kyiv has been forced to alter its plans.

Ukraine on Monday played down the report of a change in plan.

Asked about the report, presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukraine’s strategic plans remained unchanged but that more specific tactical plans were always subject to change. ‘There are strategic tasks – they are unchangeable,’ he told Reuters.

‘But operational and tactical scenarios are constantly refined, based on an assessment of the situation on the battlefield, resource provision, intelligence data on the enemy’s resources, etc.’ he said. ‘Right now its impossible to reassess plans, because they are only being worked out (now).’

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, told Reuters: ‘We are working on our own plans… The opinion of people who have nothing to do with this do not interest us…

‘The circle of people who possess information is extremely restricted.’

The documents, the authenticity of which the MailOnline has not independently verified but which have been widely reported on, include information about the war in Ukraine, including losses for both sides and other details.

One of the documents, dated February 23 and marked ‘Secret,’ outlines in detail how Ukraine’s S-300 air defence systems would be depleted by May 2 at the current usage rate – and could mean Russia could change the course of the war with jets.

Such closely guarded information could be of use to Russian forces.

Some national security experts and US officials say they suspect that the leaker could be American, given the breadth of topics covered by the documents, but they do not rule out pro-Russian actors.

A former CIA officer has said it is highly likely that Moscow orchestrated the leak in order to sow confusion and potential divisions between Washington and its allies.

The Kremlin hit back, saying that there was a general tendency to always blame Russia for everything when asked about accusations that Moscow may have been behind a leak of U.S. intelligence documents. 

‘I cannot comment on this in any way. You and I know that there is in fact a tendency to always blame everything on Russia. It is, in general, a disease,’ Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Asked about the idea that Washington had spied on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Peskov, who called the leaks ‘quite interesting’, said that could not be ruled out.

‘But the fact that the United States has been spying on various heads of state, especially in European capitals, for a long time now, has come up repeatedly, causing various scandalous situations,’ he said.

Pictured: A group of Ukrainian soldiers ride atop an APC on the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, April 8

Pictured: A destroyed armoured military vehicle lies in a road in Bakhmut, the site of heavy battles with Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, April 9

Pictured: An MI-8 helicopter flies at an undisclosed location in eastern Ukraine, April 8, 2023

A Belarusian volunteer soldier from the Kastus Kalinouski regiment, a regiment made up of Belarusian opposition volunteers formed to defend Ukraine, fires a 120mm mortar round at a front line position near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, on April 9

The report came as the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces accused the Russians of using what he called ‘scorched earth’ tactics in Bakhmut.

READ MORE: US officials are racing to find out how classified docs appearing to show highly sensitive details about the war in Ukraine, China and the Middle East appeared online 



Ukraine’s Armed Forces General Staff said on Sunday fighting was heaviest along the western approaches to Bakhmut. The Russians were also targeting the city of Avdiivka, it said, which lies around 30 miles to the south of Bakhmut.

The assault on Bakhmut, a small city in Donetsk at the edge of a chunk of Russian-controlled territory, has taken on a symbolic significance. 

Putin appears hell-bent on capturing the city at any cost – despite analysts saying it offers little in the way of tactical benefit – in order to get his first victory in months.

Nevertheless, on Monday, ground forces commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi said the defence of Bakhmut continued. ‘The situation is difficult but controllable,’ he said in comments quoted by Ukraine’s Media Military Centre.

Moscow is sending in special forces and airborne assault units to help their attack as members of Russia’s PMC Wagner group are now exhausted, Syrskyi said.

Wagner mercenaries have spearheaded the Russian assault on Bakhmut which has left the city of a pre-war population of 70,000 largely in ruins.

‘The enemy switched to the so-called scorched earth tactics from Syria. It is destroying buildings and positions with air strikes and artillery fire,’ Syrskyi said.

Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces had made unsuccessful advances on areas west of Bakhmut and at least 10 towns and villages had come under Russian shelling. The Russians had also made no headway in attacks on Avdiivka, it said.

Donetsk is one of four provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine that Russia declared annexed last year.

It is seeking to fully occupy the region in what appears to be a shift in its war aims after failing to overrun the country soon after its invasion in February 2022.

Western analysts say both sides have been losing large numbers of troops in the battle for Bakhmut, a regional transport and logistics hub prior to the war.

Control of Bakhmut could allow Russia to directly target Ukrainian defensive lines in Chasiv Yar in the east and open the way for its forces to advance on two bigger cities in the Donetsk region – Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

While Ukraine has said it wants to inflict as many casualties as possible on the Russian forces as its prepares its own counteroffensive, President Zelensky last week said if troops risked being encircled they could be pulled back.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Russian forces controlled the centre of Bakhmut, with much of their assault now focusing on the railway station.

‘There is heavy fighting in the city centre and the enemy is gradually moving toward the western outskirts,’ Zhdanov said.

Britain’s Defence Ministry said that over the last seven days, Russia also appeared to have increased its armoured assaults around the town of Marinka, also in Donetsk province.

‘Russia continues to give a high priority to resourcing operations in the broader Donetsk sector, including the Marinka and Avdiivka areas, expending significant resources for minimal gains,’ it said.

Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of War – a Washington-based think tank – said late on Saturday that it thinks Russia’s overall offensive ‘is approaching culmination’.

The institute cited Ivan Tymochko, the head of the Ukrainian Council of Reservists for the country’s ground forces, as reporting that recent Russian attacks appeared designed to distract and disperse Ukrainian troops preparing for a counteroffensive.

‘Tymochko stated that Russian forces are not making serious advances anywhere on the front line,’ the think tank said.

Ukrainian servicemen stand in a trench near their position near the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region on April 8

An Ukrainian serviceman of 57th Otaman Kost Hordiienko Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade fires 2s1 ‘Gvozdyka’ self-propelled howitzers at an undisclosed position near the outskirts of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, April 7

Noting that Russia has made heavy use of artillery to ‘offset key shortcomings in combat capability’, the institute said reported ammunition shortages would ‘undermine the Russian military’s ability to continue offsetting its other weaknesses and limitations’.   

READ MORE: Leaked Pentagon papers predict Ukrainian’s air defenses will be exhausted by MAY 23 



In a video address on Sunday night, Zelensky denounced Russian air strikes coinciding with the observance of Orthodox Palm Sunday.

Ukraine’s State Emergencies Service said a 50-year-old man and his 11-year-old daughter were killed after Russian forces struck a residential building in Zaporizhzhia, in the southeast.

A woman identified as the wife and mother of the victims was pulled from under the rubble.

‘This is how the terrorist state marks Palm Sunday,’ Zelenskiy said in his address. ‘This is how Russia places itself in even greater isolation from the world.’

The majority of Ukraine’s 41 million people are Orthodox Christians who celebrate Easter next weekend, as does Russia.

Pope Francis, who has been critical of Russia’s war, prayed for peace during Easter events in the Vatican on Sunday.

‘Help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey towards peace, and shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia,’ he said.

In other action, Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had destroyed a depot with 70,000 tonnes of fuel near Zaporizhzhia.

The forces destroyed Ukrainian army warehouses storing missiles, ammunition and artillery in the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, the ministry said.

Ukraine also reported widespread Russian shelling in northern regions. Officials in the south said Russian aircraft had used guided bombs against towns in the Kherson region.

This came as a Moscow-backed official announced on Monday that he had visited the frontline city of Bakhmut in Ukraine, suggesting that Russia’s forces have made significant gains there.

Denis Pushilin, the Russia-installed head of the eastern Ukrainian Donetsk region, posted a video of himself on Telegram in the heavily destroyed city.

‘Here is our Artemovsk,’ Pushilin said, using the Soviet-era name for Bakhmut.

‘It is being liberated by Wagnerites,’ he added, in reference to the Wagner mercenary group spearheading Russia’s battle in the city.

Destroyed buildings and ruins could be seen in the background behind Pushilin, who wore a camouflage helmet.

He appeared to be standing in the central Svoboda square of the city.

The sound of artillery could be heard in the video.

A pilot sits inside an MI-8 helicopter at an undisclosed location in eastern Ukraine, April 8

Ukrainian servicemen of 57th Otaman Kost Hordiienko Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade fire 2s1 ‘Gvozdyka’ self-propelled howitzers at an undisclosed position near the outskirts of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, April 7

The head of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, last week claimed the group had ‘in a legal sense’ captured Bakhmut because he said it had taken control of city hall.

The Russian army reported no such gains, and Ukraine has said it is continuing to defend the city.

In a sign that Wagner has made significant gains, several Russian war correspondents have in recent days published videos from Bakhmut.

One of those was Semen Pegov, who published images of himself riding on a motorbike accompanied by Wagner fighters through the ruins of the city.

As the battle for Bakhmut continues to rage, the president of Belarus told Russia’s defence minister on Monday that he wanted guarantees that Moscow would defend his country if it was attacked, the state-owned BelTA news agency reported.

BelTA cited Alexander Lukashenko as making the remarks to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu during a meeting in the Belarusian capital Minsk.

Lukashenko was cited as saying that he had previously discussed the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin who he said had agreed with him that such security guarantees were necessary and needed to be formalised.

‘In general, it sounded at the talks (with Putin) that in the case of aggression against Belarus, the Russian Federation would protect Belarus as its own territory. These are the kind of security (guarantees) we need,’ Lukashenko was quoted as saying.

Pictured: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko meets with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in Minsk, Belarus April 10

Belarus, which currently hosts a contingent of Russian forces, has offered assistance to Moscow during its military campaign in Ukraine which Russia calls ‘a special military operation.’

In the war’s earliest days, Minsk allowed Moscow to use its territory to launch an ultimately unsuccessful assault on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

Since late last year, a flurry of military drills and visits from high-level Russian officials have sparked speculation that Belarus may formally join a new attack on Ukraine.

Lukashenko has consistently denied such intentions, but has said that Belarus will respond to any incursions onto its territory or attempts to foment unrest.

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