The US Department of Defense on Thursday denied providing information on the positions of the Russian generals on the battlefield so that Ukrainian forces could kill them.
React to an explosive New York Times report on US support for the Ukrainian military, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said it is true that the US is providing military information to Kiev forces “to help Ukrainians defend their country.”
“We do not provide information on the position of senior military leaders on the battlefield nor participate in the Ukrainian military’s targeting decisions,” Kirby said.
In a separate revelation, US media reported later Thursday that the US had shared information that helped Ukraine sink the Russian warship Moskva last month, in a blow to President Vladimir Putin.
However, a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the US does not “provide specific information on ship targeting.”
“We provide a range of information to help Ukrainians understand the threat posed by Russian ships in the Black Sea and to help them prepare to defend against potential sea assaults,” the official said.
In a story first published by NBC, unnamed officials said Ukraine asked Washington about a ship sailing the Black Sea, the location of which the United States helped confirm, as well as identify it as the Moskva.
However, the US was unaware that Ukraine would target the flagship, officials quoted by NBC said.
Ukraine has been particularly effective in attacking Russian command positions and, according to reports, last week came close to hitting a position near the front line in the Donbas region where Russian general Valery Gerasimov was believed to be was visiting the troops.
Ukrainian forces may have bombed the location just hours after Gerasimov’s departure, unconfirmed reports say.
‘They make their own decisions’
the New York Times article Kirby refuted claimed that of the dozen or so Russian generals killed by Ukrainian forces, “many” had been targeted with the help of US intelligence.
The paper said the United States has provided details about the Russian military’s mobile headquarters, which frequently changes locations.
He also reported that Ukrainian forces used this information in tandem with their own to carry out attacks on senior Russian officials.
Kirby said Ukraine decides for itself whether to target a Russian leader or not.
“Ukraine combines the information we and other partners provide with the information they themselves are gathering on the battlefield,” he said.
“Then they make their own decisions and take their actions.”
The White House National Security Council slammed the New York Times denounce them as “irresponsible”.
“The United States is providing information on the battlefield to help Ukrainians defend their country,” NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.
“We do not provide information with the intent to kill Russian generals.”
Washington is supplying billions of dollars worth of military equipment and ammunition to Ukraine and is training its forces on how to use them.
It also provides Kiev with information gathered from satellites, electronic surveillance operations and other intelligence sources.
But the White House and the Pentagon have tried to limit knowledge of the full scope of US assistance, 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 Russians invaded 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 debilitate Russia in the long run.
“We want to see Russia weakened to the extent that it cannot do the kind of things it did by invading Ukraine,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said after a visit to Kiev in late April.