US intel can help Ukraine attack targets in Crimea – media
As the US has ramped up its involvement in the Ukrainian crisis by supplying heavier weapons to Kiev, it has also decided to provide intelligence reports that can help Ukrainian forces attack targets in Crimea, media outlets reported on Wednesday. Russia considers the peninsula part of its territory.
“As the conflict evolves, we continue to adjust to ensure that operators have the flexibility to share detailed, timely intelligence with the Ukrainians,” a US intelligence official told the Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper said Washington is moving to “significantly expand” intelligence-sharing with Ukraine, but “will refrain from providing intelligence that would enable the Ukrainians to strike targets on Russian territory [sic]”. The report, which was confirmed by the New York Times, specifically mentioned Crimea as covered by the new policy.
Moscow disagrees with the US definition of Crimea as part of Ukraine. The region broke away from the country after the 2014 Maidan in Kiev and voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia. Moscow considers the peninsula's status a settled issue.
On Wednesday, the Russian defense ministry said that continued Ukrainian attempts to attack targets on Russian territory may prompt it to escalate hostilities. In particular, “decision-making centers” in Kiev could be attacked, the ministry warned. Several incidents involving Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil have been reported since Moscow launched its offensive in Ukraine.
The media outlets said the policy change came in response to Russia’s alleged preparation for a major offensive against a large contingent of Ukrainian troops in the Donbass area. This was tied to Washington’s decision to ramp up arms supplies to Ukraine, the reports continued. A new $800-million package from the Pentagon, revealed this week, includes artillery guns, armored vehicles and helicopters, among other weapons.
US officials also reportedly convened a meeting with executives from eight leading American defense manufacturers to discuss how their products could benefit Ukraine.
Russia said it would consider any arms shipments that reach Ukrainian territory legitimate military targets.
The Biden administration has previously stated that it didn’t want to drag itself into an open confrontation with Russia. Officials have ruled out deployment of American troops to Ukraine, supplying fighter jets or shooting down Russian aircraft operating in Ukraine, rejecting Kiev’s calls.
Russia attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.