Defense Department officials on Thursday pushed back on reports that U.S. intelligence assets are providing information to Ukrainian military forces to help them target Russian generals, saying instead the focus is on defensive issues.
“The United States provides battlefield intelligence to help Ukrainians defend their country,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a press conference. “We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military.”
A day earlier, the New York Times reported that information provided by senior American defense officials included real-time battlefield intelligence and anticipated Russian troop movements. That includes details about the Russian military’s mobile headquarters, and the whereabouts of senior Russian military leaders.
At least 12 Russian generals are believed to have been killed in the fighting in Ukraine, which began in late February when Russian forces invaded their neighbor with a stated goal of liberating areas they claimed were oppressed by a corrupt Ukrainian government.
Since then, the United States has committed more than $3.2 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including an array of anti-aircraft and anti-tank weaponry.
U.S. and NATO intelligence assets have also shared significant information with the Ukrainian forces. Kirby would not give specifics of what that includes.
“Ukrainians have, quite frankly, a lot more information than we do,” Kirby said.
“This is their country, their territory and they have capable intelligence collection abilities of their own,” he added. “Ukraine combines information that we and other partners provide with the intelligence that they themselves are gathering on the battlefield.”
Officials from the National Security Council offered a similar pushback of the New York Times story after publication, telling the newspaper that no intelligence was provided to the Ukrainians “with the intent to kill Russian generals.”
Kirby did say that U.S. intelligence officials have publicly noted that “the Russians have not made the progress that we believe they expected to make by this point” in the 70-day-old war.
“That’s not to say they haven’t made any progress,” Kirby added. “I think we would continue to assess it as incremental and uneven.”
Last week, the British defense secretary told Parliament that about 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in the invasion. Russia has disputed Western estimates of its casualties. In late March, the Russian Ministry of Defense said that only about 1,300 of its troops had died in combat.
United Nations officials have estimated another 3,000 Ukrainian military members and thousands more civilians have also lost their lives.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.