Ukraine war - latest: Kyiv responds to 'leaked' secret war plans; Wagner fighters and Russian commanders 'pause feud' (2023)

Key points
  • Investigation launched into 'leaked secret NATO plans' for war in Ukraine IDeborah Haynes
  • Ukraine responds to the apparent leak
  • US, Germany and Hungary against 'road map' for Ukraine's NATO membership - reports
  • US journalist 'charged with spying' in Russia
  • Wagner fighters and Russian commanders 'pause feud' as Kremlin forces make further gains in key city
  • Live reporting by Faith Ridler


Who leaked 'secret NATO' documents?

Philip Ingram, former senior military intelligence and security officer, has given his analysis of claims that "secret" NATO documents have been leaked on social media.

"They're a daily briefing document from 1 March," he tells Sky News. "There are two versions of it - and what they are are updates on the flow of Western equipment into the Ukrainian forces."

They also include an assessment on the situation on the ground - and Russian casualties. However, he says parts of these documents have "almost certainly been doctored."

Below, Mr Ingram considers who might be behind the leaks...


ICYMI: Investigation launched into 'leaked secret NATO plans' for war in Ukraine

Secret documents disclosing efforts by US, the UK and other NATO allies to build up Ukraine's forces ahead of a new offensive against Russian troops appear to have been leaked online.

The US defence department is investigating who is responsible for the potentially damaging leak showing screenshots of classified military documents, which were posted onTwitterand Telegram.

The New York Times, which first reported the breach, quoted military analysts as saying the files appear to have been modified in certain parts, which could point to an attempt byMoscow to spread disinformation.

Wall Street Journal correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov saidRussianpropaganda channels appeared to have photoshopped at least one of the documents after the original ones were posted.

Mr Trofimov noted how there was suddenly a significant increase in the number ofUkrainiancasualties and equipment losses recorded and a massive decrease in the Russian battle damage.

You can read more from Sky News in the link below...


China and France reaffirm nuclear commitments

Beijing and Paris today reaffirmedtheir commitment to promote non-proliferation of nuclearweapons, nuclear disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclearenergy, a joint statement said.

The two countries support all efforts to restore peace inUkraine on the basis of international law, and principles of the UN Charter, it added.

They also both oppose armed attacks on nuclear power plants.

French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Beijing for talks.

Yesterday, Mr Macron appealed to his Chinese counterpart to "bring Russia back to its senses and bring everyone back to the negotiating table" over the Ukraine war.

The Chinese leader called for peace talks but he gave no indication that Beijing would use its leverage asPresident Vladimir Putin's diplomatic partner to press for a settlement.

Ms von der Leyensaid she expectsChinato promote a just peace that respects Ukraine's sovereignty.

(Video) Ukraine war: Wagner claims to have almost reached centre of Bakhmut


A glimpse of the scene in eastern Ukraine

This is the scene in the Donetsk region, which has continued to come under heavy fire in both Ukrainian and Russian-occupied areas.

Here, a member of the Russian Investigative Committee stands at the site of shelling at a local market, which took place on Friday morning.


Russia tells West to remove obstacles to grain exports

(Video) Russia’s private military force, explained

Russia could pull out of a wartime deal that allows the export of Ukrainian grain if the West fails to remove obstacles to Russian agricultural exports, Moscow's top diplomat has said.

The deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July, unblocked shipments stuck in Ukraine's blockaded and mined ports, alleviating rising food prices and the threat of hunger in some countries.

A separate agreement aimed to facilitate the export of Russian fertilisers and grain. Moscow has repeatedly complained that the deal failed to work for Russian agricultural exports, which have had trouble reaching world markets due to western sanctions.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Russia had agreed last month to extend the deal for 60 days - instead of the 120 days set under a previous extension - to send a warning to the West.

"After we extended the deal for 120 days, we saw no indication that those issues could be solved and grew tired of appealing to the conscience of those who determine it," Mr Lavrov said.

"We made a small escalatory move and offered to extend the deal only for 60 days on the assumption that if there is no change in removing the obstacles to the exports of Russian fertilisers and grain, we would think whether the deal is needed."

He shrugged off the West's argument that Russian food and fertilisers are not subject to sanctions.

He noted that "obstacles related to financing, logistics, transportation and insurance of Russian exports have remained and even have grown tougher".


US journalist 'charged with espionage' - reports

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been charged with espionage, Russian state media has reported today.

Mr Gershkovich, a US citizen, was arrested last week on the same charges, which have been called bogus by the West.

He is being held in a pre-trial detention centre at the notorious Lefortovo prison in Moscow and faces up to 20 years behind bars if convicted.

It was reported earlier today that a court in Moscow will hear an appeal against the arrest Mr Gershkovich on 18 April.

The hearing will be held behind closed doors since Russia considers information related to the charges as classified, Interfax reported.

The Wall Street Journal has vehemently denied the charges against Mr Gershkovich, describing his arrest as "a vicious affront to a free press".

US President Joe Biden has urged Russia to "let him go" and his arrest has further strained relations between the two countries.


(Video) Face-to-face battle with "Wagner" fighters who attacked Ukrainian soldiers in trenches

Jets bound for Ukraine 'may have been sabotaged by Russian technicians' - Slovakia

Russian technicians may have sabotaged jets bound for the war in Ukraine, officials from Slovakia have alleged.

Jaroslav Nad, the country's defence minister, said the MiG-29 jet fighters that Bratislava supplied to Ukraine may have been deliberately damaged by Russians present at an air base.

He said defects were found only in parts "accessed by Russians".

However, an investigation was unable to prove intent on the side of the technicians. They had been present at the Sliac air base until last year.

"They were able to fly, but that doesn’t mean they were also capable of combat," Mr Nad said.

"The defects appeared only in those parts accessed by Russians."

However, Slovakia believes Ukraine will be able to make the aircraft functional.

"They have pilots, spare parts, and a company that has worked on MiGs since the Soviet times," Mr Nad said.


Is there concern about Ukraine's counteroffensive in Russia?

It appears there might be some concern in Russian about a widely reported Ukrainian counteroffensive, which is apparently planned for the spring.

Francis Scarr, who watches Russian state TV for the BBC, said the possibility is clearly stirring up a reaction in the media.

In a clip he shared online, presenter Olga Skabeyeva warns that Russia should not "treat this counteroffensive flippantly".

"I always urge everyone to remember September last year, the events of Kharkiv. Back then they also announced their offensive in advance and then we withdrew from Kherson so that nobody would die.

"May we not retreat any more!"


(Video) Wagner Group chief openly criticizes Russian military leaders

Former Wagner commander arrested in Sweden

A former Wagner commander who fled to Norway has been arrested in Sweden, a Russian human rights activist has said.

Andrei Medvedev defected after joining the mercenary group as a volunteer in July and being sent to Ukraine 10 days after signing his contract.

He was taken into custody after crossing the border into Sweden on a bus to buy cheaper cigarettes, Vladimir Osechkin said.

While trying to catch a bus back to Norway, he was "struck" by a police vehicle, and officers arrested him over a migration issue.

"Andrei claims that he did not know he could not leave Norway until the issue of political asylum was considered," Mr Oseschkin said.

The 26-year-old is now being held in Gothenburg migration prison, he added.

Once there, he used the phone to contact the New Dissidents Foundation, which Mr Oseschkin works for, to explain the misunderstanding.

"We are not advocates for this young man but he voluntarily left the Wagner Group, refused to participate in the war and exposed the inhumane methods of Yevgeny Prigozhin [Wagner's leader]," Mr Oseschkin said.

"He decided to switch to the good side and we supported this decision and consider it the only possible."


Blasts heard near Russian-occupied Melitopol

Another battlefield report has emerged in recent hours.

Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, has claimed explosions were heard in the nearby village of Vesele late on Thursday.

Russian troops have been moving equipment and personnel to the village for four days, while mobile communications and internet were restricted, he said.

"The enemy tried to do this while mobile communications and the Internet were turned off in the village so that our residents could not report anything to Ukraine's Armed Forces and special services," Mr Fedorov said.

"But they didn't manage to hide it [the transfer of equipment]."

His report was based on sources inside Russian-controlled Melitopol.

Explosions were earlier heard near the Melitopol Airport, where Russian troops had "brought a lot of their extremely important cargo" by helicopter.

"But in one night, all this cargo exploded. And it's gone. And this situation is already the second week in a row, which sows panic among the occupiers," Mr Fedorov said.

(Video) Wagner Group, Russian PMCs & Ukraine - History, motives & privatised warfare

For context:Melitopol, in southeastern Ukraine, had a pre-war population of 150,000. It is unclear how many remain in the city, which has been under Russian occupation since late February 2022.


1. Ukrainian soldiers barely avoid Russian bomb as they hide in a trench
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2. Wagner Group spreading lies about the battle of Bakhmut | Rock Rachon | TVP World
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4. Why is this Russian private army so effective? See what military documents reveal
5. Ukraine war: 80% of troops killed or injured in elite military unit, says commander
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6. All Wagners Vanished who Attempted to Storm the Ukrainian Forces Trench at Bakhmuth | Ukraine War
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