The Pentagon on Friday denied reports that it helped Ukrainian forces sink the Russian warship Moskva in the Black Sea last month in a stunning setback for the invasion of Moscow.
“We have not provided Ukraine with specific information about the Moskva targeting,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Kirby said the United States had “no prior knowledge” of the plan to hit the ship, which sank on April 13, leaving an as yet uncertain number of Russian sailors dead or missing.
“We were not involved in the Ukrainians’ decision to strike the ship or in the operation they carried out,” Kirby said.
“The Ukrainians have their own intelligence capabilities to track and target Russian Navy ships, as they did in this case,” he said.
US media have reported in recent days that the US helped Ukraine identify and target Moskva as well as Russian generals while they were on the ground.
Afraid of being seen as too closely involved in Ukraine’s war against Russian invasion, the US military says it shares battlefield intelligence to help Ukrainians defend their country, but denies claims. helping to choose targets or carry out attacks.
Ukraine has been particularly successful in attacking Russian command positions and, according to reports, last week nearly struck a location near the front lines in the Donbass region where Russian chief general Valery Gerasimov was supposed to surrender. visit to troops.
Ukrainian forces may have shelled the place just hours after Gerasimov left, according to unconfirmed reports.
On Thursday, Kirby insisted that reports that the Ukrainians used specific US intelligence to kill several Russian generals were false.
“We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military officials on the battlefield or participate in Ukrainian military targeting decisions,” Kirby said.
He said Ukraine decides for itself whether or not to target a Russian leader.
“Ukraine combines the information we and other partners provide with the intelligence they collect themselves on the battlefield,” he said.
“Then they make their own decisions and they take their own actions.”
The deaths of the generals and the attack on the Moskva River proved major propaganda stunts for kyiv in the war, which began when Russian forces invaded the country on February 24.
The Moskva, which normally sailed with a crew of around 500, was hit by two Ukrainian anti-ship missiles while sailing south of Odessa. Still on fire, she sank several hours later on April 14 as salvage vessels attempted to tow her to safety.
A week later, Moscow reported that 396 crew members had been rescued, with one killed and 27 missing. He blamed the loss on a tragic fire on board, rather than a strike by the Ukrainians.
Washington provides billions of dollars worth of military equipment and ammunition to Ukraine and trains its forces in their operation.
It also provides kyiv with information gathered from satellites, electronic surveillance operations and other intelligence sources.
But the White House and the Pentagon have sought to limit knowledge of the extent of US aid, hoping to avoid provoking Russia into a wider conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Even so, Washington’s support for Ukraine has only grown and become more outspoken since the Russian invasion on February 24.
At the start of the conflict, the United States declared that it only wanted to help Ukraine survive.
But now Washington says its goal in the war is to weaken Russia in the long term.
“We want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do the kinds of things it did by invading Ukraine,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said after a visit to kyiv in late April.