Leaked Pentagon docs show rift between U.S. and U.N. over Ukraine

United Nations – Fallout from the leaked trove of classified defense and intelligence documents continues, as some of the material purports to show possible surveillance by the U.S. of the United Nations secretary-general and a disagreement over the handling of a key initiative to help export grain from Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion. 

Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old airman in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, has been arrested for his alleged connection to the leaked documents, some of which may have been doctored.

Leaked documents first reported by BBC focus in part on the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a series of agreements brokered by the U.N. and Turkey to move grain out of Ukraine’s ports and assist Russia in the export of fertilizers.  

One of the documents appeared to reveal that the U.S. felt that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ “actions are undermining broader efforts to hold Moscow accountable for its actions in Ukraine,” in order to protect the grain deal, which he considers key to addressing global food insecurity. Gutteres has gone so far as to tell Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that the U.N. will continue efforts to improve Russia’s ability to export, even if that involves sanctioned Russian entities or individuals, the documents showed.

Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, Western governments have coordinated harsh sanctions against Russian officials and entities, aimed at crippling the nation’s economy and the ability of its citizens and companies to do business with the rest of the world.

But Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador pushed back on the characterization of Guterres as friendly to Moscow. “He made an important contribution to allow Ukraine and U.N. together with Turkey sign the Istanbul agreement within his Black Sea Grain Initiative,” Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told CBS News on Thursday.

The documents, if authentic, also reveal surveillance by the U.S. of the U.N. chief. In particular, the retelling of a discussion between Miguel Graca, the Director of the Executive Office of the U.N. Secretary-General, and Gutteres in which the U.N. chief appeared annoyed at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request for Gutteres to travel to Kyiv. Guterres has made several trips to Ukraine since the start of the invasion, including his latest trip to Kyiv last month.

“The secretary-general has been at this job, and in the public eye, for a long time. He’s not surprised by the fact that people are spying on him and listening in to his private conversations,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told CBS News. “What is surprising is the malfeasance or incompetence that allows that such private conversations to be distorted and become public.”

Dujarric on Thursday told reporters, “We take whatever measures we can, but the need to respect the viability of U.N. communications applies to every member state.”  

Ukraine also dismissed the insinuation that the U.N. sides with Russia in the conflict. 

“Secretary-General Guterres made his position on the full-scale aggression of Russia against Ukraine very clear on the night of the invasion, a position now guided by several U.N. General Assembly resolutions supported by the overwhelming majority of the member states,” Kyslytsya said.

“The secretary-general has never misled me. He is very attentive to the issues I bring to his attention. He follows on my requests even when he travels,” Kyslytsya said, adding, “I think that Antonio Guterres is a world-class statesman with many decades of experience of dealing with many dramatic challenges.”

Guterres has shuttled back and forth between U.N. Headquarters, Moscow and Kyiv since the war began last February. He has known Russian President Vladimir Putin for many years, having first met him in 2000 when Guterres was prime minister of Portugal. Guterres in 2016 visited the Kremlin as one of his first foreign trips after he was elected to steer the U.N.

“Guterres has been commendably frank in criticizing Russia, but the Black Sea deal was a big win for him and he is locked into defending it,” Richard Gowan, an expert on the global body and director of the U.N. International Crisis Group, told CBS News.

It was still unclear as of Thursday how much of the information in the leaked documents, some of which officials have said are from late February and early March, is accurate. Some of the images appeared to have been manipulated.

Sources told CBS News that the Department of Defense and the intelligence community are actively reviewing and assessing the validity of the photographed documents that are circulating on social media.

The U.S. is assuring allies and partners of its “commitment to safeguarding intelligence and fidelity to our partnerships,” a U.S. source told CBS News.

Nate Evans, spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the U.N., told CBS News that Guterres and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., “have a friendly, strong, and collaborative relationship.”

— Eleanor Watson and Camilla Schick contributed to reporting

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