The U.S. shared intelligence with Ukraine that helped the country target and sink Russia’s flagship destroyer in the Black Sea last month, according to multiple media reports.
American officials first told NBC News Ukraine asked the American military if it could identify a ship sailing in the Black Sea near Odesa. The U.S. identified the warship as the Moskva before Ukrainian forces launched two missiles on April 13 that began a fire, ultimately causing the ship to sink.
This ship carried a crew of about 510 people. It’s unclear whether there were casualties.
The Washington Post and The New York Times confirmed the reports, adding American officials had “no prior awareness” that Ukraine planned to strike the ship. The Post added that without the U.S. support, Ukraine would have had difficulties using its small stockpile of Neptune missiles to target the Moskva.
U.S. officials have stressed in recent days that Ukraine has its own intelligence gathering abilities, and not all strikes have been conducted with American support. Ukraine had already found the Moskva on its own, they added.
The sharing of U.S. intelligence is part of an ongoing, classified effort by the White House to aid Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion. The Times reported Wednesday the U.S. had provided real-time battlefield intelligence to the Ukrainians that helped the country target and kill up to 12 Russian generals since the war began in February, a startling figure.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby confirmed to the Times Wednesday that the U.S. has provided “Ukraine with information and intelligence that they can use to defend themselves.” He added that Ukraine has its “own intelligence capabilities to track and target Russian naval vessels, as they did in this case.”
The Biden administration has worked to keep the full scope of its support secret, fearful that any open effort could provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin further. The Kremlin has continually warned the U.S. and other Western nations to stop arming Ukraine, saying there could be “unpredictable consequences” and making references to its nuclear arsenal.
The loss of the Moskva, named after Russia’s capital, was an embarrassing moment for the Kremlin as it failed to quickly capture Ukraine and Kyiv. The Times noted the sinking was the most significant naval loss for any navy in the world in four decades.
Russia denied an attack caused the Moskva to sink, instead saying an onboard fire sparked exploding munitions.
Russia has since regrouped and launched a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has upped U.S. military and economic support to Kyiv, asking Congress for an additional $33 billion this month to help Ukraine fend off Russia.
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