U.S. intelligence warned the Ukrainian military that the city of Bakhmut was likely to be encircled in January and that armies should fall back.
The revelation comes from the slate of classified documents released by Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira on social media sites last month and analyzed by The Washington Post.
Teixeira was arrested earlier this month on charges of releasing classified military information, first to friends on Discord and elsewhere.
A military assessment labeled “top secret” said consistent Russian advances were making the city hard to defend and put the Ukrainian army “at risk of encirclement unless they withdraw within the next month.”
But Ukraine continued to defend anyway, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holding up Bakhmut — in the country’s northeast — as more than just a city, but a national symbol of resistance to the Russian invasion. Zelensky visited the city last month, long after the U.S. intelligence warnings, and Ukraine has maintained control of the city.
“Wherever Russian evil has come, it is obvious that the terrorist state cannot be stopped by anything other than one thing — our victory,” he said. “And we will ensure it — the Ukrainian victory.”
The private Russian military group Wagner, which has been accused of war crimes, has carried out much of the Russian fighting in Bakhmut.
Wagner has a global presence but has been key to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. CNN reported this week Wagner is supplying arms for a conflict in Sudan verging on civil war.
The leaked assessment also states that Russian morale is waning, and efforts to weaken the resolve of the Russian army have been somewhat effective.
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Ukrainian Col. Pavlo Palisa, who is leading the defense of Bakhmut, told the Post that he, too, heard similar sentiment to the American assessment in January. He said the Ukrainian military has adapted to Russian tactics and is using drones and urban warfare to keep Russians at bay.
The situation in Bakhmut is unstable, Ukrainian military sources told the Post, with supply lines now hundreds of meters from Russian positions.
Bakhmut has been the main focus of Russian attacks for months. Capturing the city could enable Russian forces to take over most of the Donetsk region. Donetsk is one of the regions Russia has claimed as its own during the conflict.
Tags Bakhmut Classified documents leak Jack Teixeira russia Russia-Ukraine war ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky
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