By BEN FOX, AAMER MADHANI and NOMAAN MERCHANT – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Friday sought to downplay the role of U.S. intelligence services in the high-profile sinking of the Russian guided-missile cruiser Moskva, distancing itself from any direct role in one of the greatest embarrassments to the Russia since it attacked Ukraine.
A day after a US official confirmed that the United States provided Ukraine with information on the location of the ship, the White House and the Pentagon described a limited role and said the Ukrainians were making their own decisions .
The effort reflects the fine line that President Joe Biden is walking as he touts his support for Ukraine, while fending off criticism that he is not doing enough and simultaneously trying to avoid dragging states down. United in direct conflict with Russia.
“We had no prior knowledge of Ukraine’s intention to target the vessel,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “The Ukrainians have their own intelligence capabilities to track and target Russian Navy ships, as they did in this case. “
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Asked about reports that the United States was providing intelligence on the Moskva, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Ukraine was receiving “relevant and timely” intelligence from the United States, but was also receiving intelligence. aid from other countries and made its own decisions on how to use them.
“And if they decide to do something with that intelligence, then they make the decision to act on it,” Kirby said.
Amid strong bipartisan support for Ukraine, the administration has provided more than $3.4 billion in military assistance, and U.S. forces are actively training Ukrainian troops in the use of howitzers, drones and other materiel in a war now centered on the eastern Donbass region. from the country.
But US officials insist this is a fight launched by President Vladimir Putin against Ukraine, not a proxy war with the United States and that intelligence assistance remains within these limits.
The Pentagon spokesman said the United States had not provided Ukraine with specific targeting information on the Moskva and had no advanced knowledge of the targeting of the vessel last month, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
“We provide them with what we believe to be relevant and timely information about Russian units that will allow them to adjust and execute their self-defense to the best of their abilities,” Kirby said. “The type of information we provide to them is legitimate, it’s legal and it’s limited.
A US official said Thursday that Ukraine alone decided to target and sink the Moskva with its own anti-ship missiles. But given Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s coast from the sea, the United States has provided “a range of intelligence” that includes the locations of those vessels, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly. and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Biden administration has stepped up intelligence sharing with Ukraine alongside sending weapons and missiles to help it repel the Russian invasion. The revelation of US support for the Moskva strike comes as the White House comes under pressure from Republicans to do more to support the Ukrainian resistance and polls suggest some Americans are questioning whether President Joe Biden is tough enough with Russia.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion in February, the White House has tried to strike a balance between supporting Ukraine, a democratic ally, and refraining from any action that might provoke a direct war between Putin and the United States and its NATO allies. As the war continued, the White House stepped up its military and intelligence support, removing some time and geographic limits on what it will tell Ukraine about potential Russian targets.
The official who spoke on Thursday said the United States was unaware that Ukraine was planning to strike the Moskva until it carried out the operation.
Speaking earlier on Thursday after a New York Times article about the US role in supporting Ukraine’s killing of Russian generals, Kirby said US agencies “do not provide location intelligence senior military leaders on the battlefield nor participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian army“. .”
“Ukraine combines the information that we and other partners provide with the information that they collect themselves, and then they make their own decisions and take their own actions,” Kirby said.
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