Zelenskyy quietly floated plans to attack Russia 'to gain leverage over Moscow': report
This handout photograph taken and released by Ukrainian Presidential press service on November 14, 2022, shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looking on during his visit to the newly liberated city of Kherson. © Handout Ukrainian Presidential Press Office / AFP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has quietly floated plans to directly attack Russia despite publicly insisting that his country's only objective is to reclaim territory that has been seized, annexed, and occupied by Russian President Vladimir Putin's armed forces, according to leaked American intelligence documents obtained and analyzed exclusively by The Washington Post this weekend.

"Ukraine's leader has proposed going in a more audacious direction — occupying Russian villages to gain leverage over Moscow, bombing a pipeline that transfers Russian oil to Hungary, a NATO member, and privately pining for long-range missiles to hit targets inside Russia's borders," The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

The highly sensitive records contain Zelenskyy's "internal communications with top aides and military leaders" and "reveal a leader with aggressive instincts that sharply contrast with his public-facing image as the calm and stoic statesman weathering Russia's brutal onslaught," the Post explained. "The insights were gleaned through intercepted digital communications, providing a rare look at Zelensky’s deliberations amid Russian missile barrages, infrastructure attacks and war crimes."

READ MORE: 'You were impeached over that': Trump hints he will stop U.S. aid to Ukraine if elected

Zelenskyy and his advisers frequently had to talk one another down from issuing brash orders.

For example, "In a meeting in late January, Zelenskyy suggested Ukraine 'conduct strikes in Russia' while moving Ukrainian ground troops into enemy territory to 'occupy unspecified Russian border cities,' according to one document labeled 'top secret.' The goal would be 'to give Kyiv leverage in talks with Moscow,' the document said," per the Post.

"In a separate meeting in late February with Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine's top military commander," the Post continued, "Zelenskyy 'expressed concern' that 'Ukraine does not have long-range missiles capable of reaching Russian troop deployments in Russia nor anything with which to attack them.' Zelensky then 'suggested that Ukraine attack unspecified deployment locations in Rostov,' a region in western Russia, using drones instead, according to another classified document.'"

Zelenskyy was also alleged to have wanted to "'blow up' the Soviet-built Druzhba pipeline that provides oil to Hungary" — a member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization whose right-wing President Viktor Orban is a close ally of Putin. But American officials insisted that Zelenskyy was merely "expressing rage toward Hungary and therefore could be making hyperbolic, meaningless threats."

READ MORE: Kremlin pilot’s body washes ashore in Kyiv as Russia marks Victory Day: report

In an interview with the Post, however, Zelenskyy dismissed the reports as "fantasies" and declared that "Ukraine has every right to protect itself, and we are doing it. Ukraine did not occupy anyone, but vice versa" He stressed that "when so many people have died and there have been mass graves and our people have been tortured, I am sure that we have to use any tricks."

Since Putin's invasion began nearly fifteen months ago, "as many as 354,000 Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured," Reuters revealed last month.

The battlefield statistics are grimmer for Moscow.

"Russia has suffered 189,500-223,000 total casualties, including 35,500-43,000 killed in action and 154,000-180,000 wounded," Reuters noted, citing data from the United States Defence Intelligence Agency. "Ukraine has suffered 124,500-131,000 total casualties, including 15,500-17,500 killed in action and 109,000-113,500 wounded in action, according to the document entitled 'Russia/Ukraine - Assessed Combat Sustainability and Attrition.'"

On May 3rd, NBC News added that "more than 100,000 fighters from the Kremlin’s forces have been killed or wounded since December alone, the U.S. now estimates — outlining Moscow's massive losses as its military leaders scramble to recruit more men and prepare for an impending counteroffensive."

The Washington Post's full story continues at this link (subscription required). Reuters' is here. NBC News' is here.