Ukraine plans attacks on Russian forces in Syria

A leaked top-secret US intelligence document has revealed that the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine was developing plans to conduct covert attacks on Russian troops and mercenaries of Wagner Group PMC in Syria, using secret assistance from local Kurds - however, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered a halt to the planning of the operation in December.

According to The Washington Post, the introduction of a new battlefield — thousands of miles from the war in Ukraine — appeared to be designed to impose costs and casualties on Russia and its Wagner paramilitary group, which is active in Syria, and possibly force Moscow to redeploy resources from Ukraine.

According to the leaked documents, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy halted the planning in December. But the leaked document, based on intelligence gathered as of 23 January, lays out in detail how the planning progressed and how such a campaign could proceed if Ukraine revived it, The Washington Post said.

According to the outlet, the document — which in certain places bears the marking HCS-P, indicating that certain information is derived from human sources — details how officers of the Chief Intelligence Directorate, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry’s military intelligence service, could plan attacks on Russian troops in Syria. However, Kyrylo Budanov, the Chief of Ukrainian Defence Intelligence, refused to comment on that.

The documents indicate that Ukrainian military intelligence officers favoured striking Russian forces using unmanned aerial vehicles and starting "small" - possibly limiting their strikes only to forces of the Wagner mercenary group.

Ukrainian officers, The Washington Post said, 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."

As noted, the SDF sought training, air defense systems, and a guarantee that its role would be kept secret in exchange for supporting Ukrainian operations. The SDF's leadership also forbade strikes on Russian positions in Kurdish areas.

"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", said Farhad Shami, an SDF spokesperson, in a comment to The Washington Post.

The leaked document, as The Washington Post noted, indicates that Türkiye 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, with some of them being backed by Türkiye.

The Washington Post said that Türkiye opposes the SDF and also considers its core military element, the People’s Protection Units or YPG, to be a terrorist group. The SDF is the main partner of the U.S. troops in Syria, where they often share bases on an ongoing mission to stifle the resurgence of the Islamic State.

According to the leaked document in November, Ukrainian military intelligence officers identified potential logistical constraints to their ambitions, including "issues with intra-Kurdish border controls and establishing a base of operations".

"By 29 December, the officers appear to have found out that Zelenskyy had halted their planning. It is uncertain why Zelenskyy ordered the Chief Intelligence Directorate to cease planning operations, but the document assesses that he may have done so for a variety of reasons: U.S. pressure, Ukraine’s limited supply of drones or doubts about whether the attacks could succeed.

Another factor could have been the success of military intelligence operations in Russia. The document states the Chief Intelligence Directorate has aggressively staged sabotage, assassination, and destabilizing operations in Russian-controlled areas in Ukraine. These areas probably offer advantages in logistics, language, and other variables," The Washington Post said in its article.

Kyiv is unlikely to revive the plans, but if Ukraine did proceed, attacks could "incur a Russian response targeting US interests in the region if support for an operation is attributed to the United States," the document emphasized.

The document goes into detail about what a campaign of "notional" covert Ukrainian attacks might look like, ranking them by the likelihood that they would cause Russia to escalate in response. It weighs attacks on well-defended "priority" Russian facilities near Damascus and the Syrian coast, which would be the most dangerous for the attackers but the most costly for Russia, against strikes on "Russia-affiliated petroleum infrastructure" in central Syria, which is poorly protected by air defense systems but would only impose "modest costs" on Russia, particularly on the Wagner group.

The document states that the Syrian battlefield "provides deniability options" to Ukraine because it could attack Russian positions previously struck by Syrian rebels, launch attacks from rebel or even regime-held areas, and attribute attacks to "front, defunct or defunct or active nonstate groups."

The Washington Post added that the documents mention an actual but previously undisclosed 27 November incident in which a Russian SA-22 air defense system based in eastern Syria fired on a U.S. MQ-9 drone. The missile did not hit its target, a U.S. official said.

Overnight drone attack: Russia hit civilian infrastructure in Poltava Oblast

Dmytro Lunin, Head of Poltava Oblast Military Administration, reported that a Russian overnight drone attack damaged a civilian infrastructure facility in Poltava Oblast. Lunin also reported that emergency rescue workers were extinguishing a fire that broke out at one of the sites attacked by the Russian drones.

He said that so far, no casualties have been reported.

Russia attacks infrastructure facility in Vinnytsia Oblast at night, hits reported

Russians hit an infrastructure facility in Vinnytsia Oblast during a night attack by Shahed kamikaze drones.

Nataliia Humeniuk, head of the Joint Coordination Press Centre of the defense forces of Ukraine's south, on air during the national joint 24/7 newscast on 20 April, reported: "Unfortunately, there have been hits on an infrastructure facility in our region, in Vinnytsia Oblast. But still, most of the Shaheds were shot down."

In her opinion, with this attack, the Russians were hunting not just for infrastructure facilities but also looking for Ukrainian air defense.