Sensitive documents from the UK Ministry of Defense containing details of the actions of the armed forces in conflict areas have been found at a bus stop in Kent County, south-east England.
An excerpt from the documents discusses the possibilities of a Russian reaction to the passage of a British warship in Ukrainian waters off the coast of Crimea last Wednesday (23).
Another set of documents found at the bus stop details plans for a possible British military presence in Afghanistan following the end of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operation. United.
The British government has said it has opened an investigation into the matter. A defense ministry spokesperson said an official reported the loss of sensitive documents and added: “It would be inappropriate to comment further on the matter.”
The documents, which total nearly 50 pages, were found wet in the rain behind a bus stop in Kent on Tuesday (22) morning. One person, who asked for his identity to be preserved, contacted the BBC when they realized the sensitive nature of the content.
The BBC believes the documents, which include emails and PowerPoint presentations, were produced by a senior Defense Ministry official.
Crimean Destroyer Mission Details
Documents linked to HMS Defender, the British destroyer which spent this week off the coast of Crimea, show that the United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry expected an aggressive reaction from Russia, which is experiencing a territorial dispute with the Ukraine in this region.
In the newspapers, the British navy’s mission is described as: “an innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters”, with weapons covered and a helicopter parked in the hangar. But excerpts indicate that the British government expected a strong reaction from the Russians to the vessel’s presence near the Crimean coast.
Indeed, on Wednesday (23), more than 20 Russian planes and two coastguard ships followed the British destroyer 19 km off the coast of Crimea.
The Russian Defense Minister said a patrol vessel fired warning shots and a jet plane dropped bombs on the way to the British warship, but the British government denied the information, claiming that there had been no warning shots.
The mission, called “Op Ditroite”, was the subject of high priority discussions on Monday (21), as documents show, with officials speculating on Russia’s reaction if HMS Defender were to sail off the coast of Crimea.
“What do we know about the possible ‘welcome party’?” Asked an official. “With the shift from defense engagement activities to operational activities, interactions with the RFN are very likely [marinha russa] and the VKS [força aérea russa] be more frequent and assertive, “warned a presentation in the documents found at the bus stop.
A series of slides also shows the warship’s route options along the Crimean coast. One of them is described as a “direct and safe business transit from Odessa to Batumi”, including a brief passage through a “Traffic Separation” (TSS) zone near the southwestern tip of the river. Crimea.
The route, concludes one of the slides, would ensure “an opportunity to engage with the Ukrainian government in what the UK recognizes as Ukrainian territorial waters.”
Russia’s expected responses
Three potential Russian responses were described in the document, from “safe and professional” to “neither safe nor professional”.
In this case, Russia decided to react aggressively, with radio alerts, coastguard ships approaching within 100 meters and warning signals emitted by warplanes.
An alternative route, envisaged by the British government, would allow the HMS Defender to move away from waters whose territoriality is disputed. This would avoid confrontation, the presentation said, but there would be a risk that Russia would view the mission as proof that “the UK is scared / fled”, allowing Russia to argue that the British belatedly recognized Moscow’s right to the waters. Crimea.
“As the public would expect, the Defense Ministry plans its actions with care,” said a spokesperson for the Defense Ministry.
“On a routine basis, this includes analyzing any potential factors that could affect operational decisions.”
In short, the documents reveal that the passage of the British destroyer through an area near Crimea was a calculated decision of the British government. It was a show of support for Ukraine, despite the risks involved.
So, was the warship used as a diplomatic tool?
The mission certainly involved the use of a military vessel to achieve diplomatic objectives. But the primary objective was not to “sting the Russian bear”.
It was a matter of freedom of navigation and clear support for Ukraine’s sovereignty after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Sensitive information on the presence in Afghanistan
Most documents are classified as “officially sensitive”, a relatively low level of confidentiality.
But one of the documents was marked “Secret UK Eyes Only”, which in Portuguese translation means “only for British secret eyes”.
It includes very sensitive recommendations on a possible British military presence in Afghanistan after the end of the current NATO mission.
Earlier this year, US President Joe Biden decided to pull US troops out of the country, so the operation is starting to run out of steam.
The document deals with a US request for British support in several specific areas and indicates whether British special forces will remain in Afghanistan after the US troop withdrawal is complete.
News reports have already indicated that the UK is considering retaining troops in the country. Due to the sensitive nature of the document, the BBC decided not to disclose details that could endanger British security forces in Afghanistan.
But faced with the news of the worsening situation in the country, this raises several alerts.
“Any British footprint in Afghanistan that persists is seen as vulnerable as the target of a complex web of actors,” the document reads, noting that “the option to opt out altogether [as tropas] to be continued”.
Afghanistan, he says, is already becoming more dangerous as NATO’s presence diminishes. No Britons have been killed in Afghanistan since an agreement between the United States and the Taliban was signed in February 2020, the document says, “but this will hardly remain the status quo.”
There has hardly been a collection of classified documents lost in the past covering so many important topics.
This is a major source of embarrassment for the UK Ministry of Defense, which is currently investigating how the papers appeared on the ground behind a bus stop in the rain in the early hours of Tuesday morning.