Leaked Pentagon files indicate the United States was monitoring United Nations chief Antonio Guterres because it believed he was too soft on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
The documents appear to reveal private communications between Guterres and his deputy that focused on a Black Sea grain export deal, which, according to the leaked papers, the UN secretary general was eager to preserve and willing to accommodate Russian interests to make happen.
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“Guterres emphasised his efforts to improve Russia’s ability to export, even if that meant working with sanctioned Russian entities or individuals,” the leaked US document said, according to a report by the BBC.
Ukraine and Russia signed the export deal in July. They committed to allowing the export of grain, fertiliser and other farm goods across the Black Sea while they are at war. Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mediated the talks, which they said would help ease a global food crisis.
During discussions in February, Guterres was “undermining broader efforts to hold Moscow accountable for its actions in Ukraine”, the leaked document alleged.
Another US document from mid-February said Guterres expressed “dismay” after a call with Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, in which she said the European Union intended to increase its production of weapons and ammunition for Ukraine.
‘Malfeasance or incompetence’
Commenting on the report, Guterres’s spokesperson cited the UN chief’s long tenure at the helm of the world body to say he is “not surprised by the fact that people are spying on him and listening in on his private conversations”.
“What is surprising is the malfeasance or incompetence that allows for such private conversations to be distorted and become public,” Stephane Dujarric told Al Jazeera.
Earlier, a senior UN official had told the BBC that the organisation’s primary concern was “to mitigate the impact of the [Ukraine] war on the world’s poorest”.
“That means doing what we can to drive down the price of food and to ensure that fertiliser is accessible to those countries that need it the most,” the official was quoted as saying.
The grain deal must be periodically renewed, and on Wednesday, Russia warned that the prospects for extending the grain deal beyond May 18 were not promising because of obstacles Moscow faces over its own exports.
The Pentagon leaks have been the subject of a media and political furore in recent days and have sparked a national security investigation in the US.
The leaks reveal highly sensitive information, which has not yet been verified, regarding the war in Ukraine as well as indications the US has been spying on its allies.
US officials have warned at least some of the documents appear to be doctored.
The person who leaked the classified documents is a gun enthusiast in his 20s who worked on a military base, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing his fellow members in an online chat group.
Hundreds of pages of material had been posted there by a man who said he worked on a US military base and brought the documents home with him, two members of the group on the online social platform Discord told the Post.