In an interview with renowned reporter Seymour Hersh, a US intelligence official scolded the media for misleading the American public about Ukraine’s battlefield failures during the Spring counteroffensive. The unnamed official additionally told Hersh he believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the assassination of PMC Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin to deescalate tensions with NATO.
Responding to reports in recent weeks that Ukrainian forces were gaining momentum and recapturing territory, the official remarked, “Where are the reporters getting this stuff?” he asked. “There are stories talking about drunk Russian commanders while the Ukrainians are penetrating the three lines of Russian defense and will be able to work back to Mariupol.”
He continued, “The goal of Russia’s first line of defense was not to stop the Ukrainian offense, but to slow it down so if there was a Ukrainian advance, Russian commanders could bring in reserves to fortify the line.” The official added, “There is no evidence that Ukrainian forces have gotten past the first line. The American press is doing anything but honest reporting on the failure thus far of the offense.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a similarly optimistic message during his trip to Kyiv on Wednesday. “In the ongoing counteroffensive, progress has accelerated in the past few weeks. This new assistance will help sustain it and build further momentum,” he said at a press conference.
The official says that message is being delivered from military intelligence to the White House, while the CIA has drawn other conclusions. “This kind of reporting from the military intelligence community is going to the White House. There are other views,” he said, referring to the CIA. The official explained those views do not reach President Joe Biden.
For over three months, Kyiv has ordered its forces to advance on entrench Russian defensive lines in southern Ukraine. Russian minefields caused Ukraine to lose a significant portion of its Western-trained soldiers and equipment in the opening weeks of the offensive. The massive push by Ukraine resulted in nearly no territorial gains.
Still, Washington has pushed Kyiv to continue the counteroffensive. The White House acknowledges that for Ukraine to have a possibility of success, Kyiv will have to be willing to sustain high casualties.
The official told Hersh no matter how committed Kyiv is to the war effort, President Zelensky’s goals are unattainable. “Zelensky will never get his land back,” he said.
During a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he and U.S. officials thought Ukraine's progress in its counteroffensive against Russian forces to be "very, very encouraging." https://t.co/xKcZu9aiDT pic.twitter.com/NrkgTNY99o— CSPAN (@cspan) September 6, 2023
The official also spoke about the assassination of Prigozhin last month. He believes that Putin ordered the killing because the mercenary boss had begun to provoke NATO members. “By early August, there were reports of border tensions as the remnant of the Wagner Group made a series of intrusions into the airspace of Poland, and troublesome threats at the borders of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland,” Hersh writes, “For Putin, triggering complaints from NATO countries was an unforgivable breach. ‘That was it,’ a knowledgeable US intelligence official told me.”