Live Updates: Ukraine Begins Attack on Russia in Northeast

WASHINGTON — The United States provided intelligence that helped Ukrainian forces locate and strike a Russian command ship in the Black Sea last month, another sign that the administration is easing self-imposed restrictions on how far it will go in helping Ukraine fight Russia, and American officials. She said.

Targeting assistance, which contributed to the eventual sinking of the flagship, the Moskva, is part of an ongoing covert effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine. That intelligence also includes sharing of expected Russian troop movements, the officials said, which derives from a recent US assessment of Moscow’s combat plan for fighting in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

The administration has sought to keep much of the battlefield and naval intelligence it shares with the Ukrainians a secret for fear of being seen as an escalation and provocation of Russian President Vladimir Putin in a wider war. But in recent weeks, the United States did Heavier weapons sped to Ukraine And She asked for an extraordinary 33 billion dollars in additional military, economic, and humanitarian aid from Congress, illustrating how quickly U.S. restrictions on support for Ukraine are shifting.

Two senior US officials said that Ukraine had already obtained Moskva’s targeting data of its own, and that the US had only provided confirmation. But other officials said US intelligence was crucial to Ukraine’s sinking of the ship.

It was helping the US intelligence to hit Moskva Earlier reported by NBC News.

On April 13, Ukrainian forces launched two missiles from Neptune into Earth, striking Moskva and starting a fire that ultimately sank the battleship. Attention also focused on whether the ship’s old radar systems were working properly. Ukrainian and US officials said Moskva would likely be distracted by Ukraine’s deployment of a Turkish-made Bayraktar drone nearby.

Immediately after the strike, Biden administration officials kept a scrupulous silence, refusing to even confirm that Moskva had been struck. But in recent days, US officials have confirmed that targeting data from US intelligence sources were provided to Ukraine in the hours before the Neptune missile launch.

Officials declined to say what specific information had been passed on, but one official said the information went beyond a simple report on the ship’s location in the Black Sea, 65 nautical miles south of Odessa.

credit…Riders for the New York Times

The sinking of the ship was a huge blow to Russia and the biggest loss of any navy in 40 years.

Russia denied that Ukrainian missiles played any role in Moskva’s demise, claiming instead that a fire on board caused an explosion of munitions that destroyed the ship. This was reported by independent Russian news outlets based outside the country About 40 men died Another 100 were injured when the warship was damaged and sank.

Biden administration officials refused to publicly assert that US intelligence provided targeting information that allowed Ukraine to strike Moskva.

asked the Pentagon press secretary, John F. Kirby, about a Report In The Times of London that a Navy P-8 spy plane from Sigonella Air Base in Italy was tracking Moskva before it was struck by Ukraine, it spoke of air police missions in the Black Sea as part of a carefully crafted response: “There was no introduction Targeting information by any US Navy P-8 flying in these Air Police missions.

A US official said the Ukrainians asked the Americans about a ship sailing in the Black Sea south of Odessa. The United States identified it as Moskva and confirmed its location. Then the Ukrainians targeted the ship. The Ukrainians carried out the strike without the prior knowledge of the United States. The official said the United States had provided confirmation to the Ukrainian military, but other officials said he was not certain Ukraine could collide with the ship without American help.

After this article was published, Mr. Kirby added in a statement: “The Ukrainians have their own intelligence capabilities to track and target Russian naval vessels, as they did in this case.”

US officials have publicly acknowledged that actionable intelligence was provided to the Ukrainians in the run-up to the Russian invasion on February 24, and that this practice continued in the weeks that followed. But these officials declined to confirm America’s involvement in the Ukrainian operations that killed Russian soldiers.

A US assessment of Russia’s war plan for the Donbass region allowed a senior Pentagon official last week that Russia appeared to be “several days” behind schedule in its offensive there due to heavy Ukrainian resistance and continuing supply-line problems.

credit…Daniel Berholak for The New York Times

Russian forces can always veer from their plans, but US officials said the intelligence allows Ukrainian forces to avoid attacking in some locations and position themselves to attack the Russians elsewhere.

Although the administration remains wary of provoking Mr. Putin so much that he further escalates his attacks — President Biden has said he will not send US forces to Ukraine or create a “no-fly zone” there — current and former officials said the administration has found some value in Russia’s warning. That Ukraine has the weight of the United States and NATO behind it.

Officials said Moscow has its own calculus to assess, including whether it can handle a larger war, particularly one that would allow NATO to implement the Mutual Defense Pact or go to war more directly.

New York times reported on Wednesday That US intelligence on Russian moves to Ukraine allowed Kiev to target and kill a number of Russian generals. On Thursday, Mr. Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, acknowledged sharing intelligence with the Ukrainians, but offered few details.

But Mr. Kirby said the Ukrainians have their own intelligence sources, which they combine with others and choose which targets to hit. “They make their own decisions,” Mr. Kirby said. “And they take their own actions.”

In an interview Thursday with CNN, Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said the Biden administration had been reluctant to discuss information sharing for fear of saying anything “that would escalate the conflict.”

“We are providing real-time intelligence to Ukraine to help it defend itself,” Mr. Schiff said. “I don’t think the administration wants to go into detail about any kind of circumstances, but we want to make sure that Ukraine succeeds.”

For decades, Moskva, a powerful embodiment of Russian naval power in the Black Sea, has been dotted with missiles and looming ominously, inspiring with awe those who have seen it.

But US Navy officials who toured Russian cruisers when there was US-Russian military cooperation in the late 1990s and early 2000s said Moskva was experiencing problems. There was little visible damage control equipment on board the warship to quickly put out ship fires.

Officials said they could not see fire extinguishers or fire hoses in the aisles around the ships. On American ships, this equipment is stowed on hand to allow the crew to quickly put out fires, which is critical at sea.

Russian media reports said that a fire on board the plane ignited an ammunition magazine, and severely damaged Moskva. US officials say Neptune’s missiles likely caused the fire, which the crew was unable to contain before the old ship finally sank while being towed into port.

“The Russian military has long debated whether to retire the Moskva. It was an old Soviet cruiser in desperate need of modernization,” said Michael Kaufman, director of Russian studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington County, Virginia.

But with the cruisers and destroyers in short supply, Moscow finally decided to extend its service. In fact, it was the Moskva rifles that fired on the Ukrainian Snake Island in the first days of the war.

credit…Maxar Technologies, via The Associated Press