U.S. intel helped Ukraine protect air defenses, shoot down Russian plane carrying hundreds of troops_freckle removal before and after

Ken Dilanian and Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee and Dan De Luce·7 min read

As Russia launched its invasion, the U.S. gave Ukrainian forces detailed intelligence about exactly when and where Russian missiles and bombs were intended to strike, prompting Ukraine to move air defenses and aircraft out of harm’s way, current and former U.S. officials told NBC News.

That near real-time intelligence-sharing also paved the way for Ukraine to shoot down a Russian transport plane carrying hundreds of troops in the early days of the war, the officials say, helping repel a Russian assault on a key airport near Kyiv.

It was part of what American officials call a massive and unprecedented intelligence-sharing operation with a non-NATO partner that they say has played a crucial role in Ukraine’s success to date against the larger and better-equipped Russian military.

The details about the air defenses and the transport plane, which have not previously been reported, underscore why, two months into the war, officials assess that intelligence from U.S. spy agencies and the Pentagon has been an important factor in helping Ukraine thwart Russia’s effort to seize most of the country.

“From the get-go, we leaned pretty heavily forward in sharing both strategic and actionable intelligence with Ukraine,” a U.S. official briefed on the matter told NBC News. “It’s been impactful both at a tactical and strategic level. There are examples where you could tell a pretty clear story that this made a major difference.”

Related video: Blinken calls for continued support of Ukraine in Senate hearing

In a statement, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said, “We are regularly providing detailed, timely intelligence to the Ukrainians on the battlefield to help them defend their country against Russian aggression and will continue to do so.”

NBC News is withholding some specific details that the network confirmed about the intelligence sharing at the request of U.S. military and intelligence officials, who say reporting on it could help the Russians shut down important sources of information.

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