Officials: US Provided Intelligence to Ukraine Prior to Sinking of Russian Cruiser

U.S. officials confirmed this week that intelligence was shared with Ukraine’s military before its sinking of the Moskva. The Russian vessel was the flagship of the Kremlin’s Black Sea Fleet.

The guided missile cruiser went down on April 14 after being struck by two Ukrainian Neptune missiles, and Russia initially claimed the ship sank due to a fire of unknown origin. It carried a crew of 510, and while the U.S. says there were significant Russian casualties, the exact number is unknown.

It is now revealed that U.S. intelligence played a role in sending the Moskva underwater. The Ukrainian military, according to American officials, asked about a ship in the Black Sea near Odesa, and the U.S. identified it as the Moskva.

Then maritime intelligence was shared on the exact location of the vessel, the largest Russian warship destroyed in combat since WWII. Officials assert the U.S. did not know that Ukraine would target the warship and were not involved in the decision.

It is, however, an indication that some previous lines the administration refused to cross may be blurring. Heavier weapon shipments are now approved and the White House requested $33 billion in additional aid — a massive sum of military, economic, and humanitarian assistance.

American officials reacted cautiously to earlier reports of intelligence sharing with Ukraine in their defense against the Russian invasion. The possibility of angering Russian President Vladimir Putin and eliciting a military response is being expressed.

The White House has not commented on the Moskva report.

However, the Pentagon released a statement denying providing Ukraine with “specific targeting information for the Moskva.” Military officials also declared they had “no prior knowledge of Ukraine’s intentions.” Ukraine’s military, the Pentagon asserted, has its own capabilities of locating and targeting enemy vessels.

NBC News recently reported details of direct U.S. assistance to Ukrainian forces. This includes almost real-time data that helped in shooting down a Russian transport plane carrying hundreds of troops early in the invasion.

Assistance to Ukraine’s defenders is almost universally supported by the American public. There does exist a line that, if crossed, may lead to conflict far deeper than the country is willing to go. It is important that officials stay well aware of that line and approach it only with the greatest caution.