Intelligence provided by the U.S. helped thein April, according to a senior defense official. The U.S. shared the location of the Moskva in the Black Sea with the Ukrainians but had no role in the decision to strike it, the official said.
The role the U.S. played in the sinking of the Moskva comes after reports on Thursday detailed how intelligence the U.S. has provided helped Ukrainian forces kill Russian generals.
Without providing specifics, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday that the U.S. has been providing Ukraine useful battlefield intelligence throughout the– but Kirby said the Pentagon does not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military.
“Ukraine combines information that we and other partners provide with the intelligence that they themselves are gathering on the battlefield, and then they make their own decisions and take their own actions,” Kirby said.
Overnight Thursday, Kirby issued another statement emphasizing that the U.S. had no involvement in and no knowledge of Ukraine’s plans to hit the Moskva.
“We did not provide Ukraine with specific targeting information for the Moskva. We were not involved in the Ukrainians’ decision to strike the ship or in the operation they carried out,” Kirby said. “We had no prior knowledge of Ukraine’s intent to target the ship. The Ukrainians have their own intelligence capabilities to track and target Russian naval vessels, as they did in this case.”
Ukrainian forces struck the Moskva with two Neptune anti-ship missiles. The strike caused a large fire and the eventualon April 14.
Kirby said in April that the cruiser was about 600 feet long and had a crew of roughly 500 sailors. The Pentagon assessed that at least some of the crewmembers evacuated to other Russian naval ships but it’s unclear how many Russians suffered casualties.
The sinking of the Moskva was another embarrassment for Russian forces, who have shown an inability so far to reach their goals in the war in Ukraine. More than 70 days into the invasion, the Russian progress is still described by the Pentagon as slow, incremental, and uneven.
The lack of progress is in part due to the stiff Ukrainian resistance, the aid flowing from Western countries like the U.S,and the incorporation of intelligence the U.S. and allies are providing.
The Ukrainians also have their own intelligence collection mechanisms that are proving effective. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley told a congressional committee on Tuesday that the Ukrainian people themselves are a built-in intelligence system.
“The Russians have walked into an area that is clearly unwelcome to them, and the people have provided a massive amount of intelligence,” Milley said. “Plus we have opened up the pipes which I’m not going to go into detail here in an open hearing, but there’s a significant amount of intelligence flowing to Ukraine from the United States.”
Sara Cook contributed to this report.