May 9, 2022
The United States provided intelligence that helped Ukrainian forces to locate and strike the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet last month—another sign that the Administration is easing its self-imposed limitations on how far it will go in helping Ukraine fight Russia, U.S. officials told The New York Times.
The targeting help, which contributed to the eventual sinking of the flagship, the Moskva, is part of a continuing classified effort by the Biden Administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine, the Times said.
That intelligence also includes sharing anticipated Russian troop movements, gleaned from a recent American assessment of Moscow’s battle plan for the fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the officials said.
The Administration has sought to keep much of the battlefield and maritime intelligence it is sharing with the Ukrainians secret out of fear it will be seen as an escalation and provoke President Vladimir Putin of Russia into a wider war. But in recent weeks, the United States has sped heavier weapons to Ukraine; and requested an extraordinary $33 billion in additional military, economic, and humanitarian aid from Congress, demonstrating how quickly American restraints on support for Ukraine are shifting.
Two senior American officials said that Ukraine already had obtained the Moskva’s targeting data on its own, and that the United States provided only confirmation. But other officials said the American intelligence was crucial to Ukraine’s sinking of the ship.
The U.S. intelligence help in striking the Moskva was reported earlier by NBC News.
On April 13, Ukrainian forces on the ground fired two Neptune missiles, striking the Moskva and igniting a fire that eventually led to the sinking of the warship.
Attention also has focused on whether the aging ship’s radar systems were working properly. Ukrainian and U.S. officials said the Moskva was possibly distracted by Ukraine’s deploying of a Turkish-made Bayraktar unmanned drone nearby.
Immediately after the strike, Biden Administration officials were scrupulously silent, declining to confirm even that the Moskva had been struck. But in recent days, American officials confirmed that targeting data from American intelligence sources was provided to Ukraine in the hours before the Neptune missiles were launched.
Russia has denied Ukrainian missiles played any role in the Moskva’s demise, claiming instead that an onboard fire caused a munitions explosion that doomed the ship. Independent Russian news outlets based outside the country have reported that about 40 men died and an additional 100 were injured when the warship was damaged and sank.
Research contact: @nytimes