Volodymyr Zelenskyy nixed Ukrainian strike on Russian troops in Syria: report

Volodymyr Zelenskyy nixed Ukrainian strike on Russian troops in Syria: report

Ukraine planned last year to attack Russian military forces in Syria before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy aborted the mission, according to a leaked document obtained by The Washington Post.

Per The Post, the publication obtained the document "from a trove of intelligence material allegedly leaked to a Discord chatroom by Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard," and it offers "in detail how the planning progressed and how such a campaign could proceed if Ukraine revived it."

According to the document, "Ukrainian military intelligence officers favored striking Russian forces using unmanned aerial vehicles and starting 'small,' or possibly limiting their strikes only to forces of the Wagner mercenary group."

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The Post reports:

[Russian] President Vladimir Putin's 2015 intervention in Syria to help the embattled Assad regime retain power during the civil war has created a permanent presence of thousands of Russian troops there. The deployment, which includes advanced warplanes and air defense systems, has bolstered Moscow’s regional presence but exists in an environment Russia does not totally control. Moscow transferred some troops and hardware from Syria to the Ukraine battlefield last fall, which may have led Kyiv to assess that their departure created vulnerabilities.

Additionally, in order to carry out the attacks, the document says "Ukrainian officers considered training operatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the military force of Syria's Kurdish-controlled autonomous northeast, to strike Russian targets and conduct 'unspecified direct action' activities along with UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] attacks."

Furthermore, "SDF sought training, air defense systems and a guarantee that its role would be kept secret in exchange for supporting Ukrainian operations," according to the document.

The Post reports:

The document indicates that Turkey was aware of the planning, stating that Turkish officials 'sought to avoid potential blowback' and suggested that Ukraine stage its attacks from Kurdish areas instead of those in the north and northwest held by other rebel groups, some of them backed by Turkey.

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A former U.S. official who previously worked in Turkey said, "Turkey's goal in the region is to eliminate the military capability and leadership of the SDF. If Turkey were to be greeted with such a plan, it would be in their interest to bait the Ukraine-SDF alliance into drawing the wrath of Russia."

According to The Post, Turkey characterizes SDF's "core military element, the People's Protection Units or YPG, to be a terrorist group."

Farhad Shami, an SDF spokesman said, "The documents that you are talking about regarding our forces are not real; our forces have never been a side in the Russian-Ukrainian War."

Aron Lund, a fellow at the think tank Century International, said "attacks on Russian forces in Syria 'might raise the threat level to the point where the Russians would need to call in reinforcements.'"

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The Washington Post's full report is available at this link (subscription required).

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