US opens probe into Pentagon document leak; Bakhmut battle ‘under control’

US opens probe into Pentagon document leak; Bakhmut battle ‘under control’
An Ukrainian serviceman of 57th Otaman Kost Hordiienko Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade fires 2s1 ‘Gvozdyka' self-propelled howitzers at an undisclosed position near the outskirts of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, 07 April 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Oleg Petrasyuk)

The US Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the leak of highly classified Pentagon documents about how the US spies on foreign countries, including an assessment of weaknesses in Ukraine’s military.

Belarus is seeking formal security guarantees from Russia, its closest ally, President Alexander Lukashenko said.

Ukrainian troops are continuing the defence of Bakhmut despite a monthslong siege by Russia, a top commander said on a visit to the front near the area.  

Key developments 

US opens criminal probe into document leaks  

The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the leak of highly classified Pentagon documents about how the US spies on foreign countries, including an assessment of weaknesses in Ukraine’s military. 

“We have been in communication with the Department of Defense related to this matter and have begun an investigation,” the department said in a statement. “We decline further comment.”

The documents appeared online last month and the Pentagon has stood up an interagency effort to assess the impact of the leak.

Ukraine, Russia prisoner swap largest since January 

Ukraine and Russia conducted the largest exchange of prisoners since January, officials on both sides said.

Kyiv received 100 soldiers, sailors, border guards, and national guardsmen from Mariupol and Gostomel, according to Presidential Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak. Russia’s Defence Ministry said 106 of its service members were returned under the agreement. 

Ukraine inflation slows for third consecutive month  

Consumer-price growth slowed for the third straight month in March as lower global commodity prices combined with Ukraine’s tight monetary policies and base effects.

The consumer price index grew 21.3% from a year earlier in March, down from 24.9% in February, the State Statistics Service said.  

Ukraine’s inflation has been slowing since the beginning of the year, largely due to the base effect, as price growth soared a year earlier in the early weeks of Russia’s invasion. 

Russia to spend exit fees for foreign firms on tourist sector 

Russia will earmark the “voluntary” fees it plans to charge investors from “unfriendly” countries to sell their assets for developing tourist infrastructure, according to a new order from President Vladimir Putin.

The instruction came after a meeting on new steps to develop Crimea, the tourism-dependent region which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. 

Ukraine resumes exports of electricity to Moldova after attacks  

Ukrenergo said it sold surplus electricity to Moldova for the first time since a wave of Russian attacks on power infrastructure began last fall. 

The grid operator sold 330 megawatts of power in its first auction, it said. Another auction is planned to deliver 80MW to Poland and Slovakia may get exports in the future, as well. Ukraine resumed electricity export as it has a surplus, the country’s Energy Ministry said last week. 




Belarus seeks formal security guarantees from Russia, says Lukashenko 

Belarus has asked Russia to provide formal security guarantees as tensions with the US and its allies mount, President Alexander Lukashenko said, according to the official Belta news service.

Lukashenko said he had raised the issue of protecting his country from “aggression” in talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who agreed to do a thorough review of existing agreements between the two allies and determine what legal action would be needed to ensure Belarus’s security. 

Lukashenko spoke at a meeting in Minsk with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who said he would discuss the continued presence of Russian troops in Belarus and expanding cooperation. The Belta report made no mention of Moscow’s plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which have drawn criticism from the US and its allies.

Bakhmut situation ‘difficult but under control’, says Ukrainian commander 

Ukraine’s forces are holding on in Bakhmut as Russia presses its offensive there, Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi said on a visit to the front near the city, to which Moscow’s forces laid siege for months.

“The defence of Bakhmut continues. The situation is difficult but under control,” he said, according to the Defence Ministry. “Our warriors exhausted the Wagner group and the enemy is forced to use special units and assault units to fight,” he said, accusing Russia of using Syria-style tactics, destroying buildings and positions with aircraft and artillery strikes. 




Ukraine is running out of air-defence missiles, documents claim 

Ukraine’s military may run out of missiles for its air defences as early as May, potentially giving Russia a chance to attain long-sought air superiority, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing recently leaked US intelligence documents.

The newspaper quoted Colonel Yuri Ihnat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, as saying that he couldn’t comment on the information in the leaked slides as the data are classified in Ukraine. But he confirmed that after more than a year of war, Ukraine faces a serious challenge finding the Soviet-designed ammunition for the backbone of its air-defence system, the S-300 and the Buk batteries.

The Pentagon and the Justice Department began an investigation last week into document leaks when some purported US Department of Defense presentations were posted by Russian propagandists on Telegram, the Journal said.

Russia steps up armoured attacks near Donetsk, says UK 

Russia has probably increased armoured assaults on the town of Mariynka, about 20km southwest of Donetsk, the UK Ministry of Defence said on Twitter.

The town has been fought over since 2014 and largely destroyed by artillery but commands the approaches to Donetsk and the key H15 road, the UK said. DM


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