Russia said on Thursday that the entire crew of the Moskva, a warship usually carrying 500 sailors, was forced to evacuate after a fire broke out overnight and added that it was badly damaged. It did not accept any attack that would deal a major blow to Russian prestige in the Seven Weeks War, which is already widely seen as a historical blunder.
Ukraine’s allies called for a rally of new support for the beleaguered country, hours after the alleged ship attack. On a visit to Russia’s doorstep with leaders of three other countries who fear they may be in Moscow’s sights next time, Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda declared that “the fight for the future of Europe is taking place here”. is.”
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden, who this week called Russia’s actions in Ukraine “genocide”, approved $800 million in new military aid to Kyiv. He added that the weapons of the West have so far kept Ukraine’s fight going and that “we can no longer rest.”
News of the flagship’s loss dashed Russian claims of progress in the southern port city of Mariupol, where they have been battling Ukrainians since the early days of the invasion in some of the heaviest fighting of the war – at a terrible cost to civilians.
Spokesperson of the Russian Defense Ministry Major-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday that 1,026 soldiers of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade surrendered at a metal factory in the city. But Vadim Denisenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, dismissed the claim, telling Current Time TV that “the fighting at the port continues to this day.”
It was not clear when the surrender would have taken place or how many forces were still defending Mariupol.
Russian state television broadcast footage on Wednesday said it was from Mariupol that showed dozens of men walking with their hands in camouflage and carrying others on stretchers or chairs. A man had a white flag in his hand.
The capture of Mariupol is significant for Russia as it would put under its control a swathe of territory that would allow its forces to the south, through the Crimean peninsula, to connect with troops in the eastern Donbass region, Ukraine’s industrial heartland. And the target of the coming attack.
Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine in the Donbass since 2014, the same year Russia annexed Crimea. Russia has recognized the independence of the rebel areas in the Donbass.
But satellite photos obtained a week ago at Crimea’s port of Sevastopol suggest Moscow’s loss could set those efforts back.
Odessa Region Governor Maksim Marchenko said the Ukrainian guided missile cruiser was hit by two Neptune missiles and caused “serious damage”. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the fire resulted in an explosion of ammunition on board.
It was unclear whether the ship was completely incapacitated, but even the severe damage could be a major blow to Russia, which had already seen its tank carrier Orsk hit late last month.
Hours after the attack was reported, Ukrainian officials said on the Telegram messaging service that the blasts had hit Ukraine’s largest port, Odessa, which is located on the Black Sea, as does Sevastopol. He urged residents to remain calm and said there was no danger to civilians.
According to Western officials, Russia invaded Kyiv on February 24 with the goal of swiftly capturing Kiev, toppling the government, and establishing a friendly replacement for Moscow. But ground progress stalled in the face of strong Ukrainian resistance assisted by Western weapons, and Russia potentially lost thousands of fighters. The conflict has killed countless Ukrainian civilians and forced millions to flee.
A UN task force warned that the war threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries that are facing even higher food and energy costs and increasingly difficult financial conditions. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war is “supercharging” a crisis in food, energy and finance in poor countries that were already struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and lack of funds.
The war has also destabilized the post-Cold War balance in Europe – and countries especially concerned on the eastern side of NATO fear they may come under attack next. As a result, those nations have been some staunch supporters of Ukraine.
The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia traveled to war-torn regions of Ukraine on Wednesday to demand accountability for what they called a war crime. He met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and visited Borodyanka, one of the cities near Kyiv, where evidence of atrocities was found after Russian troops concentrated on the country’s east.
Latvian President Egils Levits said, “There is no doubt that he has committed war crimes. And for this he must be held accountable.”
Lithuania’s Nauseda called for tougher sanctions against Russian oil and gas shipments and all banks in the country.
In his nightly address, Zelensky noted that the International Criminal Court prosecutor visited the Kyiv suburb of Buka, which until recently was controlled by the Russian military and where evidence of mass murders and more than 400 bodies were found.
“It is inevitable that Russian troops will be held accountable. We will drag everyone to the tribunal, not just for what was done in Buka,” Zelensky said late Wednesday.
He also said work was on to remove thousands of unexploded shells, mines and travel wires left in northern Ukraine by the departing Russians. He urged the people returning home to beware of any unfamiliar object and report it to the police.
Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington and AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.
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