According to articles by the Washington Post (WP) and New York Times (NYT) leaked Pentagon documents show that while the Russian mercenary group Wagner was buying weaponry for use in Ukraine from the Assad regime, Ukrainian president Zelenskyy was making plans to attack Russian assets in Syria.
The plans which were being developed until halted in December of last year would have seen the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry using Kurdish assets in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to implement “deniable attacks that would avoid implicating the Ukrainian government itself.”
The leaks revealed that Ukraine posited hitting “Russian forces using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)” and “to strike Russian targets and conduct ‘unspecified “direct action” activities along with UAV attacks.’” It seems the SDF was conducive to the plans providing the received training and air defense systems and assurance that their involvement in Ukrainian operations in Syria remained secret.
However, SDF spokesman, Farhad Shami denies the claims, telling the WP that the SDF “have never been a side in the Russian-Ukrainian war.” Turkey was allegedly aware of the plans but wished to distance itself from the operations fearing complications and urged that Ukraine stage its operations from “Kurdish areas instead of those in the north and northwest held by other rebel groups,” yet Turkish, US and Ukrainian officials have all declined to comment on the purported operations.
Prospective targets listed in the documents included Russian and Wagner bases, military points, and Russian manned oil and gas infrastructure, Latakia’s Bassel al-Assad Airport, Hmeimim Air Base, Tortuous Naval Base, and Jihar gas plant were specifically named in the leaks.
The aborted prospectus acknowledged the risks such operations posed to US and Turkish interests in the region, logistical difficulties in execution, and low yield impact on Ukraine’s territorial war efforts as cons to the operations implementation. The leaked documents provide insight into the importance that Syria plays on the international stage and broader global conflicts.