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Washington Post: Leaked intelligence report suggests US thought Bakhmut would fall in January
While Ukrainian forces continue to hold Bakhmut, leaked U.S. intelligence reports indicate that the U.S. was warning of a potential Russian encirclement and encouraged Ukrainian troop withdrawals back in January, the Washington Post reported on April 20.
According to the Washington Post, Colonel Pavlo Palisa, a commander overseeing Ukrainian troops in the battle of Bakhmut, said he was "never formally briefed on this U.S. intelligence or the recommendations on how to leverage the fight in Bakhmut for additional advantage," coyly adding that he is "not such a big fish."
Palisa attributed the success of the ongoing fight in Bakhmut to a mix of signal jamming, classic urban warfare, and drone reconnaissance – the latter allowing Ukrainian forces to avoid wasting precious artillery stocks.
The leaked report allegedly also includes U.S. suggestions on how to weaken Russian forces, including a “physiological operation campaign” that highlights the "expendability" of Russian troops, ultimately encouraging deserters, the Washington Post wrote.
U.S. intelligence also allegedly encouraged Ukrainian forces to counter Russian assault waves with a combination of artillery and surface-to-air missiles.
Bakhmut, a once-prosperous industrial city in Donetsk Oblast, has largely been destroyed after becoming the epicenter of heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces for the past nine months.
The Wagner mercenary group has been assisting Russia’s military in trying to capture Ukraine’s eastern city of Bakhmut for months as Moscow tries to consolidate its grip over the entirety of Donetsk Oblast.
As of mid-April, Ukrainian forces continue to hold parts of the city, west of the railway line, while Russian forces led by the Wagner Group have taken the administrative center.
"I would like to see the city without all the destruction," Palisa said, as quoted by the Washington Post. "But if it helps to save other Ukrainian cities, we need to do what we have to do."
The documents cited by the Washington Post are part of one of the biggest intelligence leaks in recent years, revealing an unprecedented look into what is allegedly happening behind the scenes of the war effort in Ukraine.
U.S. federal investigators arrested on April 13 the suspect allegedly linked with the mass intelligence leak.