Ukraine says it damaged flagship of Russian Black Sea Fleet

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine said its forces struck and severely damaged the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, inflicting a potentially major setback on troops in Moscow as they attempted to regroup for a new offensive in eastern Ukraine after withdrawing from much of the north. , including the capital.

Russia said on Thursday that the entire crew of the Moskva, a warship that would typically have 500 sailors on board, was forced to evacuate after an overnight fire and also reported that it was badly damaged. But he did not acknowledge any attack, which, in addition to any practical impact, would also deal a heavy blow to Russian prestige seven weeks into a war already widely seen as a historical mistake.

The damage to the ship came hours after some of Ukraine’s allies sought to rally new support for the beleaguered country. During a visit with leaders from three other EU countries on Russia’s doorstep who fear they will be targeted next by Moscow, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said “the fight for the future of ‘Europe takes place here’.

The Russian Navy guided missile cruiser Moskva (Moscow) is seen in 2021 sailing into a port after tracking NATO warships in the Black Sea.

Alexey Pavlishak via Reuters

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden, who called Russia’s actions in Ukraine “genocide” this week, approved $800 million in new military aid to Kyiv. He said the weapons of the West have supported Ukraine’s fight so far and “we cannot rest now”.

News of the flagship’s damage eclipsed Russian claims of advances in the southern port city of Mariupol, where they have been battling the Ukrainians since the early days of the invasion in some of the fiercest fighting of the war – at a cost horrible for civilians.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday that 1,026 soldiers from Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade went to a metal factory in the city. But Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, dismissed that claim, telling Current Time TV that “the battle for the seaport is still going on today.”

It is not known when or over what period a surrender may have taken place or how many forces were still defending Mariupol.

Russian state television broadcast footage it said came from Mariupol showing dozens of men in camouflage uniforms walking with their hands in the air and carrying others on stretchers. A man held a white flag.

The capture of Mariupol is crucial for Russia, as it would bring under its control a strip of territory that would allow its forces from the south, which came through the annexed Crimean peninsula, to link up with troops from the eastern region of Donbass, the industrial heart of Ukraine and the target of the coming offensive.

Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine in the Donbass since 2014, the same year Russia seized Crimea. Russia has recognized the independence of the rebel regions of Donbass.

But the loss of the Moskva, which fires missiles, could set back those efforts.

Satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC show the Moskva leaving the port of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula on Sunday.

Maksym Marchenko, the governor of the Odessa region across the Black Sea northwest of Sevastopol, said the Ukrainians hit the ship with two Neptune missiles and caused “serious damage”. The Russian Defense Ministry said ammunition on board exploded as a result of a fire and it is investigating the cause of the fire.

The Neptune is an anti-ship missile that was recently developed by Ukraine and based on an earlier Soviet design. The launchers are mounted on trucks parked near the coast and, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, the missiles can hit targets up to 280 kilometers (175 miles) away.

It was unclear whether the ship was fully disabled, but even severe damage could be a blow to Russia, which already saw its tank carrier Orsk hit late last month.

Hours after the damage to the ship was reported, Ukrainian authorities said on the Telegram messaging service that explosions hit Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port. They urged residents to remain calm and said there was no danger to civilians.

Russia invaded on February 24 with the aim, according to Western officials, of quickly seizing kyiv, overthrowing the government and installing a favorable replacement for Moscow. But the ground advance stalled in the face of strong Ukrainian resistance with the help of Western weapons, and Russia potentially lost thousands of fighters. The conflict has killed countless Ukrainian civilians and forced millions more to flee.

A UN task force has warned that the war threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries which are facing ever higher food and energy costs and increasingly difficult financial conditions. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war is “fuelling” a food, fuel and financial crisis in the poorest countries already struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and lack of access to finance.

The war has also upset the post-Cold War balance in Europe – and particularly worried countries on NATO’s eastern flank who fear they will be attacked next. As a result, these nations are among Ukraine’s strongest supporters.

The Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian presidents traveled to war-torn areas in Ukraine on Wednesday and demanded accountability for what they said were war crimes. They met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and traveled to Borodyanka, one of the towns near kyiv where evidence of atrocities was found after Russian troops withdrew to focus on the east of the country.

“There is no doubt that they committed war crimes. And for that they should be responsible,” Latvian President Egils Levits said.

Nauseda from Lithuania called for tougher sanctions, including against Russian oil and gas shipments and all banks in the country.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who is also Defense Minister, traveled to Kyiv on Thursday.

In his late night address, Zelenskyy noted that the International Criminal Court prosecutor had visited the kyiv suburb of Bucha, which was controlled by Russian forces until recently and where evidence of massacres and more than 400 bodies have been found.

“It is inevitable that Russian troops will be held responsible. We will take everyone to court, and not just for what was done to Bucha,” Zelenskyy said Wednesday night.

He also said work was continuing to remove tens of thousands of unexploded shells, mines and tripwires left in northern Ukraine by departing Russians. He urged people returning home to be wary of any unfamiliar objects and report them to the police.


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