The role of US intelligence in the war in Ukraine has come under scrutiny after Russia accused the White House of providing information about targets Kiev uses to launch long-range missiles.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed Washington was “directly involved” in the war and passed on intelligence that led to the “mass deaths of civilians”. The US was responsible for missile strikes by Kiev on populated areas in eastern Donbas and other regions, it said.
“All of this proves undeniably that, contrary to what the White House and Pentagon claim, Washington is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Biden administration has so far provided more than $8 billion (£6.55 billion) in security assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February, including an additional $550 million tranche unveiled Monday. But it strongly denies being a participant in the conflict or at war with Russia.
The Kremlin’s comments came after an interview given to the Telegraph on Monday by Vadym Skibitsky, the acting deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence. Skibitsky said Himars’ US-made long-range artillery systems had been extremely effective in wiping out Russian fuel and ammunition depots.
He said excellent satellite imagery and real-time information had helped. He denied that US officials provided information about direct targets. But he acknowledged that there had been consultations between US and Ukrainian intelligence officials prior to the strikes so that Washington could vet the targets and veto if necessary.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova responded to the comments. She told RIA Novosti news agency: “No other confirmation is needed of the direct involvement of the United States in the hostilities on the territory of Ukraine.
“The delivery of weapons is not only accompanied by instructions on how to use them, but in this case fulfill the function of gunners in their purest form.”
The US has given Ukraine 16 Himars systems so far. Four more were added this week. The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has credited them with slowing Russia’s advance to the east and south and inflicting significant damage on enemy operations.
Superior US-supplied artillery is likely to play a key role in a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive to retake the southern city of Kherson, which the Russians captured in the early days of the invasion. Russia has been transferring troops and equipment to the southern front in recent days to bolster its defenses.
Moscow claims a Himars attack last week killed 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war in a Russian-run prison near Olenivka, in the Donetsk region. Another 73 were injured. Kiev says the Russians killed the prisoners of the Azov regiment, who were captured in Mariupol in May.
On Tuesday, the regiment called on the US State Department to recognize Russia as a “terrorist state”.
“Russia has been proving this status for many years with its daily actions. His army and special services commit war crimes every day,” it said, claiming that its fighters were the victims of a “public execution” in Moscow.
On Monday, the Institute for the Study of War released a report concluding that Russian troops were behind the explosion in prison. It said satellite images strongly suggested that a “precision strike or an internally planted incendiary or explosive device” triggered the detonation.