Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has privately plotted major attacks inside Russia while pledging publicly that his forces won’t use Western-provided arms to target Russian territory, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.
The report cited leaked Pentagon documents that are part of the Discord leaks and said Zelensky has previously suggested attempting to occupy Russian villages, bomb a Russian pipeline to Hungary, and had expressed concern over the lack of long-range weapons that can strike Russian territory.
According to one document, Zelensky suggested during a meeting in January that Ukrainian forces could “conduct strikes in Russia” and move forces into Russian territory to “occupy unspecified Russian border cities.” The idea of the assault would be “to give Kyiv leverage in talks with Moscow.”
Another document, which has previously been reported on, said in February, Zelensky “expressed concern” to Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, that “Ukraine does not have long-range missiles capable of reaching Russian troop deployments in Russia nor anything with which to attack them.”
Zelensky’s most provocative suggestion came during a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Svrydenko in February, where he proposed “blowing up” the Druzhba pipeline, which provides oil to Hungary, a NATO member. The document says that Zelensky “highlighted that … Ukraine should just blow up the pipeline and destroy likely Hungarian [Prime Minister] Viktor Orban’s industry, which is based heavily on Russian oil.”
The document suggested Zelensky was “expressing rage toward Hungary and therefore could be making hyperbolic, meaningless threats.” But either way, the revelation is sure to raise tensions between Kyiv and Budapest. Both US and Ukrainian officials have been enraged with Hungary over its calls for a ceasefire and efforts to ease EU sanctions on Russia. Hungary and other landlocked former European nations that rely on pipelines were given exemptions from the EU’s Russian oil ban.
The revelations came after the UK started delivering Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine, which have a range of about 250 kilometers (155 miles), significantly farther than the munitions the US has provided Kyiv. The US welcomed the British move and, despite the Discord leaks, isn’t concerned about potential escalation.
“Ukraine has repeatedly committed to employ US-provided weapons responsibly and strategically when needed to counter Russian aggression, and we are confident that will continue to be the case,” a Pentagon official told the Post.
Zelensky called the contents of the leaks “fantasies” and insisted he won’t use long-range weapons to hit targets inside Russia. He made similar comments on Sunday, saying Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive will not aim to attack Russian territory.