According to a cache of classified documents leaked on the internet, the depth of the internal fighting within the Russian government is deeper and wider than was previously thought.
The documents that were not included in the 53-page document set that was widely circulated online last week paint a picture that the Russian government is fighting over the number of dead and injured in the Ukraine War, with the Russian intelligence agency accusing military officials of concealing the extent of Russian casualties.
The 27-page document reveals how American intelligence agencies penetrated virtually every aspect of Russian military and intelligence structures. The new batch also reveals that the American intelligence agencies' breach could contain much more material than was previously thought.
In one document, American officials claim that the Federal Security Service (F.S.B.) of Russia, its main domestic intelligence agency has accused the Defense Ministry in the country of 'obfuscating Russian deaths in Ukraine'. This finding highlights the'reluctance' of military officials to pass on bad news.
The entry, which dates from February 28, in a document that contains a series updates on the war in Ukraine, and other hot spots around the world, seems to be based upon electronic intercepts collected in America by American intelligence agencies.
Every disclosure of classified material has the potential of revealing additional methods and ways of gathering intelligence. There does not seem to be much information in the documents from human sources. This suggests that the original leaker did not have access to more highly classified materials. The material is labelled as being from intercepted communications.
The documents, taken together, highlight several of the main reasons that many analysts believe President Vladimir V. Putin has not been able to achieve a military win in Ukraine after over 13 months of conflict.
There were also internal conflicts and accusations of blame between Russian agencies, such as the F.S.B. The Defense Ministry. The F.S.B. Discussions within the Russian government are questioning the Defense Ministry’s own casualty counts.
The document states that officials contend the toll of the Ministry does not include the dead or wounded of the Russian National Guards, the Wagner mercenary forces, or the fighters of Ramzan Kadyrov the strongman leader in the southern Russian republic Chechnya. The various fighting forces the Kremlin deployed in Ukraine sometimes worked at cross-purposes, complicating Russia's efforts.
The F.S.B. The document states that 'the actual number of Russians killed and wounded in action was closer than 110,000'.
The document does NOT specify the casualty numbers that the Defense Ministry circulates within the government. The ministry last publicly announced a death toll in September when Sergei K. Shoigu said that 5,937 Russian soldiers had died since the start of the war.
American officials had previously estimated Russian losses to be around 200,000 soldiers. A leaked document states that the Russians suffered between 189,500 and 223,000 casualties in February, including as many as 43,000 deaths in action. This compares to 124,500 - 131,000 Ukrainian casualties with up to 17,500 dead in action.
New documents provide new details on a highly publicized dispute that occurred in February, in which Yevgeny Prigozhin (the businessman who runs the Wagner Force) accused Russian military officials for withholding ammunition to his fighters. One document states that Mr. Putin tried to settle the dispute by personally calling Mr. Prigozhin into a February 22 meeting with Mr. Shoigu.
The document, which uses an alternative transliteration for the minister's last name, states that the meeting was almost certainly about Prigozhin’s public accusations, and the tensions resulting from them, with Shoygu.
Some pages are missing from the new documents, which were shown in photos. The documents shown in their entirety include those from the National Security Agency (NSA), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Pentagon’s Joint Staff Intelligence Directorate.
The New York Times posted the material on a Discord server where the Pentagon documents were eventually published. Officials from the United States have confirmed that these documents are authentic, but warned that some may have been altered. These documents could also contain outdated information.
The Times explained the new batch documents to several U.S. officials. The officials said that while they did not dispute the data, they were unable to independently verify it.
A slide, dated February 23, that appeared to be produced by the Joint Staff of the military concluded that Russia had failed to disrupt the massive stream of Western weapons and equipment into Ukraine ever since the beginning of the war. It also asserted that the Kremlin’s battered army would not be able change this anytime soon.
The document stated that 'Russia's economic problems and its degraded conventional capability will very likely further hinder its efforts during the next six months, creating an environment that is largely permissive for continuing lethal aid delivery'.
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The new material includes a six page document from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence dated February 23 called the 'Watch Report'.
The Watch Report is not a final intelligence conclusion, but rather a compilation of various reports that were received by intelligence agencies just hours before its distribution. Some of these accounts are from single sources and often lack context.
Former officials who read the Watch Report say that while some information will prove to be correct over time, other information will eventually be revealed to be incomplete.
The Watch Report, for example, says that Russian foreign intelligence "reported" that China had given lethal aid Russia. It cites a communications intercept. The document does not make it clear if China had informed the Russians that they were sending aid or if Russia was spying on them.
NBC News and The Times reported on March 3 that the U.S. learned of the plan to get lethal assistance from China from Russian officials.
A senior official of the administration warned on Wednesday that there was no sign that China had decided to provide lethal assistance to Russia weeks later. This suggests that Russian intelligence regarding Chinese intentions could be flawed.