Ukraine demands US provide more information on targets in Russia

Ukraine has asked the Biden administration to provide more information on the location of Russian forces and military targets inside Russia as Ukrainian troops struggle to hold their ground in the war, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials.

A group of members of the Ukrainian parliament also met with members of Congress in Washington to push for the United States to allow Kiev to use American weapons in Russia.

Ukraine's demands have become more urgent in recent weeks as Russia has taken advantage of delays in American weapons shipments and stepped up military operations in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine.

But White House officials said the administration's long-standing policy remained unchanged: The United States does not encourage or allow attacks inside Russia. American officials, seeking to avoid an escalation of the war, have insisted they do not want US weapons used in cross-border attacks or their intelligence reports used to target sites in Russia.

The latest request came in in recent days, officials said, and administration officials have begun reviewing it. Similar appeals have been rejected in the past.

The United States provides some information to Ukraine about Russian forces in Russia, for example, about troops that are massing for potential attacks. Ukraine also has access to commercial satellite imagery that allows it to see Russian activity at major military bases.

But Ukrainian officials say they must increase the number and effectiveness of their cross-border attacks to push Moscow to end the war, according to current and former Ukrainian officials. To do so, these officials say they want more real-time intelligence and more information from allies on what U.S. and European officials say are the most critical targets.

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Ukrainians “asked us for help in being able to strike in Russia,” but that the request was broad and not “specific to a weapons operation.” system.”

At the moment, “we don't help them with any of the things they do in Russia,” he told reporters Thursday on his flight to Brussels for NATO meetings.

A former Ukrainian official said American and allied intelligence on Russian military assets across the border would allow Ukraine to more accurately plan routes for its drones and guided missiles. These weapons must fly low to avoid radar, which requires detailed terrain mapping.

And while some commercial imagery helps the Ukrainians locate Russia's mobile air defenses, American intelligence would provide better and faster information.

There are signs that Ukraine's cross-border strategy is becoming more effective, and allied officials say an expanded campaign, particularly targeting Russia's defense industry and manufacturing facilities, would be key to changing the trajectory of the war.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said his troops were moving into the Kharkiv region to carve out a buffer zone that would make it more difficult for Ukrainian forces to strike the Russian border city of Belgorod.

American officials say these attacks have been a major source of irritation for the Kremlin. General Brown said Russia does not appear to have sufficient forces or supplies to take Kharkiv.

Faced with Russia's incremental gains and Ukraine's severe troop shortage, NATO allies are considering launching training missions inside Ukraine. Much military training is done at the unit level, and Ukraine has struggled to create a national program.

But American officials have warned allied governments against sending troops to Ukraine, concerned that if Russia targeted them or they were killed in an attack, the alliance could quickly become embroiled in a broader war.

Similar to training missions, allied governments are considering easing restrictions on Ukraine's cross-border actions, including by providing more intelligence on potential targets and allowing the use of their weapons inside Russia, Western officials said.

David Cameron, the British foreign secretary, said during a visit to Kiev this month that Ukraine has “the right” to use weapons supplied by London to strike targets inside Russia.

“Just as Russia is striking in Ukraine, you can understand why Ukraine feels the need to make sure it defends itself,” Cameron told Reuters.

Russia responded to these comments by threatening to strike British military facilities and equipment in Ukraine “and beyond”. The Kremlin also summoned the British ambassador to Moscow to deliver a message of protest.

The United States has said it is up to Ukraine to decide whether to attack Russia.

“We have not encouraged or allowed attacks outside of Ukraine, but ultimately Ukraine must make decisions for itself about how to wage this war,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Wednesday. “We will continue to support Ukraine with the equipment it needs to win.”

Elbridge Colby, a critic of the Biden administration's policies towards Ukraine, said tensions between Britain and Russia over Cameron's statements show the dangers of insufficiently considered escalation.

“These Russian counterthreats are very concrete and relatively proportional,” said Colby, a Pentagon official during the Trump administration. “And that's the thing that worries me.”

Providing information to specifically target Russians in Russia would mean significantly eroding the guardrails the Biden administration has put in place to prevent the conflict from spreading beyond Ukraine's borders, he added.

“As in the early years in Vietnam, we are moving step by step toward eroding the boundaries we set for ourselves,” Colby said. “We have been in this situation for two and a half years. We are in a war of attrition with Russia and our escalation is constant. Is that where we want to be?”

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