Fate of Russian warship unclear after Ukrainian-claimed strike

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian officials said their forces hit the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet with missiles overnight, with one saying on Thursday that it sank .

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian officials said their forces hit the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet with missiles overnight, with one saying on Thursday that it sank . Russia said the Moskva was badly damaged by a fire that forced the evacuation of the warship, but was still afloat.

The loss of the warship named after the Russian capital would be a major military and symbolic defeat for Moscow as its troops regroup for a new offensive in eastern Ukraine after withdrawing from much of it. from the north, including the capital.

Russia did not acknowledge any attack, but said a fire aboard the warship, which would typically have 500 sailors on board, forced the entire crew to evacuate the vessel. He later said the fire had been brought under control and the ship would be towed to port with its guided missile launchers intact.

The ship carries 16 missiles and its withdrawal from combat would significantly reduce Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea. Regardless of the extent of the damage, any attack would represent a blow to Russian prestige seven weeks into a war already widely seen as a historical mistake.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile the widely differing accounts, and cloud cover made it impossible to locate the vessel or determine its condition based on satellite photos. Ukrainian officials were even cautious: one said the ship had sunk and a video from his armed forces depicted it overturning and starting to sink, but another official refused to comment. confirm it.

News of 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 of three other EU countries on Russia’s doorstep who fear they will be targeted next by Moscow, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said that “the fight for the future of ‘Europe takes place here’.

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 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 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”.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, later said the ship sank, calling it an event of “colossal significance”. started to sink.

Yuriy Sak, adviser to the Ukrainian defense minister, later said he was unable to confirm that the ship had been sunk or even hit by Ukrainian forces. He said he was aware of comments from other Ukrainian officials but “could neither confirm nor deny” what had happened.

He told The Associated Press that the warship was capable of launching 16 long-range cruise missiles.

“If or when this is confirmed, if this is confirmed, we can only breathe a sigh of relief because it means fewer missiles will reach Ukrainian cities,” he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said ammunition on board exploded following a fire, without specifying the cause of the fire. He later said the ship was afloat and would be towed for repairs. He said his “main missile weapons” were undamaged. In addition to cruise missiles, the warship also had air defense missiles and other guns.

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.

The United States has been unable to confirm Ukraine’s claims that the warship was hit, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Thursday. Still, he called it “a blow to Russia”.

“They kind of had to choose between two stories: one story is that it was just about incompetence, and the other was that they were attacked, and neither is the right outcome for them,” Sullivan told the Economic Club of Washington.

The Moskva was said to have been the warship that called Ukrainian soldiers stationed on Snake Island in the Black Sea to a standoff at the start of the war. In audio widely circulated online, the soldier replies: “Russian warship, go (expletive) yourself.

The AP could not independently verify the incident, but Ukraine and its supporters consider it an iconic moment of defiance, and the country recently unveiled a postage stamp commemorating it.

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.

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.

“There is no doubt that they committed war crimes. And for that they should be held accountable,” 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.

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.

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Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Adam Schreck, The Associated Press










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