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Luke Harding – The Guardian Aug2, 2022

The role of American intelligence in the war in Ukraine has been put under scrutiny after Russia accused the White House of supplying targeting information used by Kyiv to conduct long-range missile strikes.

Russia’s defence ministry claimed Washington was “directly involved” in the war, and had passed on intelligence that had led to the “mass deaths of civilians”. The US was responsible for rocket attacks by Kyiv on populated areas in the eastern Donbas and in other regions, it said.

“All this undeniably proves that Washington, contrary to White House and Pentagon claims, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Biden administration has so far given more than $8bn (£6.55bn) in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s February invasion, including an additional $550m tranche unveiled on Monday. But it strongly denies it is a participant in the conflict or is at war with Russia.

The Kremlin’s comments came after an interview given to the Telegraph on Monday by Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s acting deputy head of military intelligence. Skibitsky said the US-made long-range Himars artillery systems had been extremely effective in wiping out Russian fuel and ammunition dumps.

He said excellent satellite imagery and real-time information had helped. He denied US officials were providing direct targeting information. But he acknowledged there was consultation between US and Ukrainian intelligence officials before strikes, so Washington could vet and if necessary veto intended targets.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, leaped on the remarks. She told the RIA Novosti news agency: “No other confirmation of the direct involvement of the United States in the hostilities on the territory of Ukraine is required.

“The supply of weapons is accompanied not only by instructions on its use, but in this case they perform the function of gunners in their purest form.”

The US has given Ukraine 16 Himars systems so far. Four more arrived this week. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has credited them with slowing Russia’s advances in the east and south and inflicting significant damage on enemy operations.

Moscow claims a Himars strike killed 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war last week at a Russian-operated prison near Olenivka, in the Donetsk region. Another 73 were injured. Kyiv says the Russians murdered the prisoners from the Azov regiment, who were captured in May in Mariupol.

On Tuesday, the regiment called on the US state department to recognise Russia as a “terrorist state”.

“Russia has been proving this status with its daily actions for many years. Its army and special services commit war crimes every day,” it said, claiming its fighters were victims of a Moscow “public execution”.

On Monday the Institute for the Study of War published a report that concluded Russian forces were behind the prison explosion. It said satellite imagery strongly suggested a “precision strike or an internally planted incendiary or explosive” caused the blast.