In an unusual step, the Ministry of Defence today warned there is “a serious level of inaccuracy” in leaks which claim UK special forces have been operating in Ukraine, and that they shouldn’t be taken at “face value.”

According to a US classified military document, dated March 23, which was leaked online, as many as 50 British special forces operators are currently deployed in Ukraine. It also claimed that the UK has the largest contingent of special forces on Ukrainian soil, alongside more than a dozen operators from NATO states Latvia, France and the US. 

But a MoD spokesman posted a message on Twitter that: “The widely reported leak of alleged classified US information has demonstrated a serious level of inaccuracy.

“Readers should be cautious about taking at face value allegations that have the potential to spread disinformation.”

US military sources are also dismissing the claims. Pentagon spokesman, Chris Meagher, is quoted as saying that some of the classified documents, which were leaked online and have been widely circulated on social media, appear to have been doctored.

And the New York Times, which first reported the breach, has quoted military analysts saying the files appear to have been modified in certain parts. This could point to an attempt by Moscow to spread disinformation.

It is understood that the documents may first have been published in a chatroom on Discord, an encrypted social media platform popular with gamers. One of the chatroom users is thought to have shared the classified documents, typing them out with their own thoughts added. Some of the posts showed images of the classified papers but with folds on them suggesting they had been changed. 

Although the posts have now been deleted, it is understood the material was first shared on an online meme group run by a 20-year-old university student living in the UK on part of the Discord app.

The student, a self-professed ‘micro celebrity’ calling himself wow_mao, posted a video discussing the fallout onto YouTube and told a journalist it was ‘hilarious’. In an interview with the New York Times, wow_mao, who says he is part British, part Filipino, said he spent ‘little time’ on the Discord server and mostly focused on his YouTube channel, where he has about 250,000 subscribers. He told the NYT: “It was just spread onto the nicheiest [sic], nerdiest parts of the internet. That’s the kind of people who would find these documents — losers. That’s who the U.S. government really has to fear.”

He added a lack of respect for the government was cited as why the documents were most likely leaked: “They’ll always find it funny to mock them and cut under them in some sort of way.”

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is determined to get to the bottom of the leaks, vowing to “investigate and turn over every rock until we find the source of this and the extent of it”. He also said the Pentagon was aware that documents had been posted dated February 28 and March 1. However, he was not sure if there were other documents that had been online before. 

British special forces have already been deployed in Ukraine. Back in December, the former head of the Royal Marines, Lt. Gen. Robert Magowan, confirmed that British commandos had already been sent twice to Ukraine in 2022 – first in January to evacuate the British Embassy in Kyiv, and again in April “to provide protection to critical personnel”.

Lt Gen Magowan said the personnel had served in Ukraine”with a high level of political and military risk”.

Some of the leaked documents show more details about the Ukrainian war, including more details of US spying operations among allies including South Korea, Israel, the UK. They also show how US intelligence has been providing the Kyiv government with details of planned Russian attacks as well as showing that Ukraine’s air defences are close to being exhausted. 

Investigators are now working flat out to find the source of the leaks which some say could be as big an intelligence stash as the US government documents released to Wikipedia in 2013. 

Write to us with your comments to be considered for publication at