Russia's intel agency had evidence Ukrainians would fight a Russian invasion but told the Kremlin otherwise.
That's according to information obtained by The Washington Post.
One Western official said intel officials gave the Kremlin "the sense that there would be flowers strewn in their path."
Russian officials had intelligence that Ukrainians would not welcome invasion by Russia, but intelligence officials still told the Kremlin that they would, The Washington Post reported.
Polls conducted for Russia's security service, the FSB, before the February 24 invasion showed that Ukrainians would oppose a Russia invasion and that a large proportion of Ukrainians would be willing to fight, The Post reported.
But it is not clear if the FSB gave the results to the Kremlin, The Post said.
Ukrainian and Western officials told The Post that the FSB instead repeatedly gave the Kremlin reports saying that Ukrainians would welcome the takeover and a new, Russia-supporting government.
The polls were done by Research & Branding, a firm that The Post said has "close ties" with the FSB.
One poll in January, the month before the invasion, asked: "Are you ready to defend Ukraine in the event of such a necessity?" Forty-eight percent of respondents said yes, The Post said. The poll was first obtained by Ukrainian intelligence, and then obtained by The Post.
Multiple reports say that Russia expected to seize Ukraine quickly, and that a major factor in Russia's failure to do so was the unexpectedly high level of resistance by Ukrainians.
It is not fully clear why the FSB did not communicate what it knew to Russia's leaders.
Officials told The Post that the FSB would have wanted to please the Kremlin, and that people who were giving the FSB information may have had their own political or financial reasons for wanting Russia to take down Ukraine's government.
The head of the UK's intelligence agency gave a similar assessment in March.
Jeremy Fleming, the director of GCHQ, said: "We believe Putin's advisors are afraid to tell him the truth, what's going on and the extent of these misjudgments must be crystal clear to the regime."
A senior Western military official told The Post that the FSB's failure to capture and communicate the reality of Ukraine's feelings fed into the missteps by Russia's military in trying to take Ukraine.
"There was plenty of wishful thinking in the GRU and the military, but it started with the FSB," he said.
"The sense that there would be flowers strewn in their path — that was an FSB exercise."
Western intelligence also saw that Russia had false confidence that it would be welcomed in Ukraine, the BBC reported.
One Western intelligence officer told the broadcaster: "They genuinely believed there would be flags out to welcome them."
The Post said the director of Research & Branding did not respond to its questions.
Ukraine, which borders Russia, was once part of the Soviet Union, and Russia has repeatedly sought to portray it as Russian territory, despite its fighting for and gaining independence in 1991.
Putin has baselessly tried to portray Ukraine as a country that has never been fully independent as part of his justification for the invasion, and has claimed Ukraine as Russian territory.
He said in February: "Let me emphasize once again that Ukraine for us is not just a neighboring country. It is an integral part of our own history, culture, spiritual space."
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