Pro-Ukrainian sympathizers within Russia are being supported by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's country to carry out acts of sabotage, CNN reported.
Sources familiar with U.S. intelligence told CNN that Ukraine has developed a network of agents and sympathizers and has begun supplying them with drones to stage attacks.
CNN reported Monday that U.S. officials believe the drone attack at the Kremlin on May 3 was launched from within Russia rather than flying them from Ukraine into Moscow.
The New York Times previously reported that U.S. officials said Ukrainians likely were behind the drone attack at the Kremlin.
It was not clear whether other recent drone attacks, including one targeting a Moscow-area residential neighborhood and striking oil refineries in southern Russia, were launched from inside the country or conducted by pro-Ukrainian operatives, CNN reported.
"U.S. officials believe that Ukraine has developed sabotage cells inside Russia made up of a mix of pro-Ukrainian sympathizers and operatives well-trained in this kind of warfare," CNN reported.
"Ukraine is believed to have provided them with Ukrainian-made drones, and two U.S. officials told CNN there is no evidence that any of the drone strikes have been conducted using U.S.-provided drones."
It was unclear how drones were transported behind enemy lines, though two sources told CNN that Ukraine "has established well-practiced smuggling routes that could be used to send drones or drone components into Russia where they could then be assembled."
CNN sources said that Zelenskyy has set "general parameters" for what his intelligence and security services can do, but not every operation requires the president's approval.
"We will comment on instances of 'cotton' only after our victory," a Ukrainian Security Service spokesperson told CNN and added that explosions and drone strikes inside Russia would continue.
"Cotton" is a slang-word Ukrainians use to mean explosions, CNN reported.
One U.S. intelligence source told CNN that Ukraine developing a network of agents and sympathizers was "a culmination of months of effort."
"There has been for months now a pretty consistent push by some in Ukraine to be more aggressive," the source told the outlet. "And there has certainly been some willingness at senior levels. The challenge has always been their ability to do it."
Although senior U.S. officials publicly have condemned the strikes inside Russia, CNN said U.S and western officials privately said the cross-border attacks are a smart military strategy because they could cause Russia to divert resources to protect its own territory.
In an interview published during the weekend, Zelenskyy said Ukraine was ready to launch its long-awaited counteroffensive to recapture Russian-occupied territory.
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