MOSCOW – The depth of the infighting inside the Russian government appears broader and deeper than previously understood, judging from a newly discovered cache of classified intelligence documents that has been leaked online.
The additional documents, which did not surface in a 53-page set that came to wide public attention online last week, paint a picture of the Russian government feuding over the count of the dead and wounded in the Ukraine war, with the domestic intelligence agency accusing the military of obscuring the scale of casualties that Russia has suffered.
The new batch, which contains 27 pages, reinforces how deeply American spy agencies have penetrated nearly every aspect of the Russian intelligence apparatus and military command structure.
It also shows that the breach of American intelligence agencies could contain far more material than previously understood.
In one document, American intelligence officials say that Russia’s main domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, has “accused” the country’s Defence Ministry “of obfuscating Russian casualties in Ukraine”.
The finding highlights “the continuing reluctance of military officials to convey bad news up the chain of command,” they say.
The entry, dated February 28 in a document with a series of updates about the war in Ukraine and other global hot spots, appears to be based on electronic intercepts collected by American intelligence agencies.
Each disclosure of classified documents has the potential to reveal additional methods and means of intelligence gathering.
The documents do not appear to contain much, if any, information from human sources, suggesting the original leaker may not have had access to that more highly classified material.
Instead, much of the material is labelled as coming from communications intercepts.
Taken together, the documents underscore several of the overarching reasons why, many analysts believe, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has failed to secure a military victory in Ukraine after more than 13 months of war.
Among them: infighting and finger-pointing among Russian agencies responsible for different aspects of the war, including the FSB and the defence ministry.
The leaked entry about the casualty numbers provides little context for the intelligence officials’ finding, but it reports that the FSB is questioning the defence ministry’s own casualty count in discussions within the Russian government.
FSB officials, the document says, contend that the ministry’s toll did not include the dead and wounded among the Russian national guard, the Wagner mercenary force or fighters fielded by Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of the southern Russian republic of Chechnya.