The Pentagon on Tuesday pushed back on the idea that the U.S. military is helping Ukraine strike within Russia’s borders, following several days of Kremlin claims that Ukrainian drones and “saboteurs” had crossed borders to attack the country.
“I have seen some press reporting from Russian officials, first of all alleging that the U.S. was somehow providing information to enable these types of attacks,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a DoD spokesman, said Thursday during a press briefing. “I can say definitively that the notion of us providing intelligence or information to the Ukrainians to target locations inside Russia is nonsense.”
On Thursday the Russian government accused Ukraine of sending gunmen to attack villagers in the Bryansk region, days after blaming a series of drone attacks inside the country on Ukraine.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister said Thursday during a press conference that the drone attacks could only have been carried out with U.S. help, Agence France-Presse reported.
While the Defense Department has acknowledged sharing “battlefield” intelligence with the Ukrainian military in the past, it has denied specifically choosing or approving targets.
“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,” then-Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said last year, a policy Ryder insists continues.
“We are not at war with Russia, nor do we seek war with Russia. Our focus is purely on supporting Ukraine to defend itself. And so that’s what we’ll continue to do,” Ryder said.
Last month, Ryder also dismissed a Washington Post report that the U.S. was helping Ukraine with targeting using the U.S.-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
“We have long acknowledged that we share intelligence with Ukraine to assist them in defending their country against Russian aggression, and we have optimized over time how we share information to be able to support their requests and their targeting processes at improved speed and scale,” he said in a February statement to the newspaper. “The Ukrainians are responsible for finding targets, prioritizing them and then ultimately deciding which ones to engage. The U.S. does not approve targets, nor are we involved in the selection or engagement of targets.”
Ryder declined to say whether the U.S. believes Ukraine is responsible for the recent attacks, referring questions to Ukraine. Ukraine has not taken credit for drone strikes inside Russia, but last fall confirmed that it had used drones to attack Russian forces in Crimea.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.