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Ukrainian president says he learned of Pentagon leak from news reports

<i>Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto/Getty Images</i><br/>Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky
NurPhoto via Getty Images
Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto/Getty Images
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky

By Jack Forrest, CNN

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had no conversations with the White House after a trove of classified US intelligence documents were posted on social media, he told The Washington Post Monday.

In an interview with the Post, Zelensky said he learned about the Pentagon leak through news coverage and claimed he “did not receive information from the White House or the Pentagon beforehand.”

“We did not have that information. I personally did not. It’s definitely a bad story,” he said, calling it “unprofitable” for Ukraine, as well as “also not beneficial to the reputation of the White House, and I believe it is not beneficial to the reputation of the United States.”

A US official told CNN, “We are in constant communication with our Ukrainian counterparts about a range of issues, including over the unauthorized disclosures, but we aren’t going to get into the details of those private discussions.”

Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Tuesday he couldn’t speak to Zelensky’s claims, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “conducted a large number of phone calls” to allies and partners, including to Austin’s Ukrainian counterpart, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

“I don’t want to speak for President Zelensky. … The United States, the Department of Defense, we remain committed to working very closely with Ukraine and our international allies and partners to ensure that they have the security assistance they need to be able to defend their country and take back their sovereign territory,” Ryder said.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba that the United States “very much regretted the unauthorized exposure of these documents, that we took very seriously our obligations and responsibility to protect information.”

Speaking at a Washington Post event, Blinken did not address Zelensky’s claim that he found out about the leaks from the press, not US officials.

The top US diplomat said the leaks have “virtually not come up” in his travels and meetings. “In fact, to the extent it’s come up, I’ve raised it, just to make clear how seriously we take this,” Blinken said.

The documents allegedly leaked by 21-year-old Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira appeared to catch the Biden administration flat-footed, disclosing a blunt US intelligence assessment of the war in Ukraine, as well as details revealing US intelligence collection on allies.

While FBI and Pentagon officials piece together how a junior enlisted airman allegedly smuggled classified intelligence documents off a secure air base, defense and intelligence sources say the leak exposed glaring weaknesses in how the Pentagon safeguards its most sensitive secrets. The Air Force has suspended two leaders of Teixeira’s Massachusetts Air National Guard unit last Wednesday, a week after that unit ceased its intelligence mission amid an investigation.

Teixeira faces charges under the Espionage Act after allegedly posting the sensitive intelligence to the social media platform Discord, but has yet to enter a plea. A judge at Teixeira’s custody hearing last week said he would not yet issue a ruling on whether Teixeira would remain in jail while he awaits trial.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Natasha Bertrand, Haley Britzky, Alex Marquardt, Zachary Cohen, Jeremy Herb and Sean Lyngaas contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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