Other U.S. officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said they concurred that the spate of the leaked phone calls was part of a deliberate intelligence strategy to intercept and selectively publicize the private conversations of Western and Ukrainian officials.

Moscow has been aggressively spying on Western officials for years. But the pattern of intercepted and then leaked conversations casts a new light on how far Russia is willing to go in its information and intelligence war over Ukraine…

“In the post-Snowden era, it’s very difficult for the United States to turn around and say how disgraceful it is to spy on telecoms,” said Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia’s security services who is also a professor at New York University. “From [the Russian] point of view, it’s a relatively cost-free, but a potentially very useful technique.”