The chair of the Commons defence select committee has warned allegedly leaked documents about UK special forces in Ukraine could “endanger lives”.
The Ministry of Defence warned against taking allegations contained in the reported leak of US classified information, which have been published online, at “face value”.
But the committee chair Tobias Ellwood told The Times: “Given our long-established lead in scale and capability when it comes to elite forces, it will come as no surprise that our special forces are doing much of the heavy lifting.
Media outlets including the BBC and The Guardian reported that a document, dated March 23, indicates as many as 50 UK special forces personnel have been deployed to the country alongside other western special forces.
But the document reportedly does not state where the allegedly deployed forces are located or what they are doing.
Former special forces commander Dan Jarvis, who served in Afghanistan and is now the Labour MP for Barnsley Central, told The Times such operations are “by necessity shrouded in secrecy”.
He said: “Any compromise of secret material regarding their deployment or numerical strength is not only politically embarrassing but also militarily disadvantageous.
“It risks jeopardising the security and effectiveness of those operations and could put lives at risk.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said on Twitter: “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.”
Chris Meagher, a spokesman for the Pentagon, has urged caution in “promoting or amplifying any of these documents”, adding that “it does appear that slides have been doctored”.
The documents may first have been published in a chatroom on Discord, a social media platform popular with gamers, Associated Press reported.
According to one member of the chat, an unidentified poster shared documents that were allegedly classified, first typing them out with the poster’s own thoughts, then, as of a few months ago, beginning to post images of papers with folds in them.
The posts appear to have gone unnoticed outside of the chat until a few weeks ago, when they began to circulate more widely on social media.
Associated Press could not independently confirm many details shared by the person and the original chatroom has been deleted.
Asked on Monday if the US Government was effectively waiting for more intelligence documents to show up online, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby replied: “The truth and the honest answer to your question is: We don’t know. And is that a matter of concern to us? You’re darn right it is.”