An official said all hospitals in Ukraine’s Luhansk region were destroyed

An official said all hospitals in Ukraine's Luhansk region were destroyed

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Thursday, April 7 (Sarah Seilbiger/Reuters)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has publicly stated for the first time that the United States is providing intelligence to Ukrainian forces to conduct operations in the Donbass region.

Austin testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and was asked if the United States had provided intelligence to help Ukraine carry out attacks against Russian forces in occupied Donbas or Crimea.

“We are providing them with … intelligence to conduct such operations … in the Donbass,” Austin said in response to a question from Senator Tom Cotton. Austin did not mention Crimea in his response. He also stated that the United States does not discourage Ukraine from launching attacks on Russian forces in these areas.

Why is this important: This is the first time that a US official has openly acknowledged the US role in Ukraine’s operations in the disputed region as fighting has moved from the capital, Kyiv, to southeastern Ukraine.

“We will continue to provide useful information and information to the Ukrainian armed forces in their struggle,” a senior defense official told CNN Thursday after Austin’s remarks. “As this battle progresses in the Donbass region, we will adapt the content and information flow as needed.”

Austin then said during the hearing that the Pentagon would send “updated guidance” today, but he did not explicitly say what the guidance would entail.

Cotton asked if the current guidelines were not intended to provide such information to Ukraine.

“Of course, the current guidelines aren’t clear on this, so we’ll make sure they’re clear,” Austin replied.

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Earlier this month, the White House acknowledged that the United States had sent “a significant amount of detailed and timely intelligence” to Ukraine regarding Russia’s plans and moves.

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