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Update: The Washington Post restored the excerpt of the interview that was deleted earlier
The Washington Post deleted a portion of an interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where he accused the paper of helping Russia by posing a question about information contained in leaked classified documents.
The interview was conducted on May 1 and published on Saturday. An archived version of the interview shows a testy exchange between Zelensky and the Post, which was later deleted.
The Post asked Zelensky about documents they obtained that they said showed members of Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, known as HUR, had “back-channel contact” with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary force Wagner Group.
Zelensky appeared to think the Post received the information from a Ukrainian and demanded the paper reveal its source. “I would also like to ask you a question: With which sources from Ukraine do you have contact? Who is talking about the activities of our intelligence? Because this is the most severe felony in our country. Which Ukrainians are you talking to?” he said.
The Post said the information “did not come from Ukraine” and that it was part of the Discord leaks, which revealed information that was obtained by the US spying on Zelensky. The Post said the documents showed Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, informed Zelensky about a “Russian plan to destabilize Moldova with two former Wagner associates.”
The Post added: “Budanov informed you that he viewed the Russian scheme as a way to incriminate Prigozhin because ‘we have dealings’ with him. You instructed Budanov to inform Moldovan President Maia Sandu, and Budanov told you that the GUR [HUR] had informed Prigozhin that he would be labeled a traitor who has been working with Ukraine. The document also says that Budanov expected the Russians to use details of Prigozhin’s secret talks with the GUR [HUR] and meetings with GUR [HUR] officers in Africa.”
Zelensky responded by asking if the paper wanted the help Russia. “You are releasing some sort of information that does not help our state to attack and does not help us to defend our state. So, I don’t quite understand what you are talking about. I don’t quite understand your goal. Is your goal to help Russia?” he said. When the Post responded by saying it didn’t want to help Russia, Zelensky replied, “Well, it looks different.”
It’s not clear why the Post deleted the portion of the interview, but it could have been done at the behest of the Ukrainian government, which had previously pressured CBS News to remove a documentary on military aid to Ukraine.
On Sunday night, the Post published a report on the HUR’s alleged contacts with Prighozhin. The report said Prighozhin, who is known to speak out against Russian military leadership, offered to give Ukraine information on Russian troop positions if Ukrainian forces withdrew from Bakhmut. But the report said US and Ukrainian officials thought the proposal was disingenuous.
Prigozhin on Sunday made light of the allegations about his contacts with the HUR. According to the Post, he met with Ukrainian intelligence officials in an unnamed country in Africa. “Yes of course I can confirm this information, we have nothing to hide from the foreign special services. Budanov and I are still in Africa,” Prighozhin wrote on Telegram. He also denied the contents of the report, calling the claims “laughable.”
Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.