Damaged Russian Black Sea flagship sinks in latest setback

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The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, a missile cruiser that became a potential target of the Ukrainian challenge in the early days of the war, sank on Thursday after being heavily damaged in the latest setback of the invasion from Moscow.

Ukrainian officials said their forces hit the ship with missiles, while Russia acknowledged a fire aboard the Moskva but no attack.

The loss of the warship named after the Russian capital is a devastating symbolic defeat for Moscow as its troops regroup for a new offensive in eastern Ukraine after withdrawing from much of the north , including the capital, Kyiv.

In his nightly video address to the nation, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to the sinking, telling Ukrainians they should be proud to have survived 50 days of attack while the Russians “gave us maximum five”. Listing the many ways Ukraine defended itself against invasion, he noted “those that showed that Russian warships can get away, even if it’s on the bottom” of the sea. was his only reference to the missile cruiser.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the ship sank in a storm while being towed to port. Russia said earlier that flames on the ship, which would typically have 500 sailors on board, forced the entire crew to evacuate. Later he said the fire had been brought under control.

The Moskva had the capacity to carry 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its removal reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea. It is also a blow to Moscow’s prestige in a war already widely seen as a historical mistake. Now entering its eighth week, the invasion has stalled in the face of resistance from Ukrainian fighters bolstered by weapons and other aid sent in by Western nations.

During the early days of the war, the Moskva was reportedly the ship calling Ukrainian soldiers stationed on Snake Island in the Black Sea to a standoff.

News of the flagship has eclipsed Russian claims of advances in the southern port city of Mariupol, where Moscow forces have been battling the Ukrainians since the early days of the invasion in some of the fiercest fighting of the war – to a horrible cost to civilians.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday that 1,026 Ukrainian soldiers went to a metallurgical plant 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 was not known how many forces were still defending Mariupol.

Mariupol was the scene of the worst suffering of the war.

A dwindling number of Ukrainian defenders are resisting a siege that has trapped more than 100,000 civilians in desperate need of food, water and heat. David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, told AP in an interview on Thursday that people are “starving” in the besieged city.

The mayor of Mariupol said this week that more than 10,000 civilians had died and the death toll could exceed 20,000, after weeks of attacks and deprivation that left bodies “lurking in the streets”. The capture of Mariupol is crucial for Russia because it would allow its southern forces, which were crossing the annexed Crimean peninsula, to fully link up with troops in the Donbass region, the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine and the target of the coming offensive.

The Russian military continues to move helicopters and other equipment together for such an effort, according to a senior US defense official, and it will likely add more ground combat units “in the coming days”. But it is still unclear when Russia might launch a bigger offensive in Donbass.

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.

The loss of Moskva could delay any new large-scale offensive.

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 following a fire, without specifying the cause of the fire. He said the “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. This would have put the Moskva within range, depending on where it was when the fire started.

Launched as Slava in 1979, the cruiser served in the Cold War and during the conflicts in Georgia and Syria, and helped conduct scientific research in peacetime with the United States. During the Cold War, it carried nuclear weapons.

In 1989 the Slava was supposed to host a meeting off Malta between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President George HW Bush, but high winds shifted the talks to the docked cruiser Maxim Gorky.

Before the Moskva sinking, Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, told AP his withdrawal would mean “we can only breathe a sigh of relief.”

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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