News from Ukraine: Russia says it will increase attacks on Kyiv

kyiv, UKRAINE —
A day after Moscow suffered a symbolic crushing defeat with the loss of the flagship of its Black Sea Fleet, Russia’s Defense Ministry vowed on Friday to step up missile attacks on the Ukrainian capital in response to alleged ” military hijackings” of Ukraine on Russian territory.

The threat of intensified attacks on kyiv came after Russian authorities accused Ukraine of launching airstrikes on residential buildings in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine, and injuring seven people. Authorities in another region bordering Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling on Thursday.

Life in kyiv has gradually returned to some normalcy after Russia failed to capture the capital and withdrew its troops to northern Ukraine to focus on a concentrated assault in the east of the country. Another bombardment could send the city’s residents back to safety in subway stations and the constant wail of air raid sirens.

Ukrainian officials have not confirmed any striking targets in Russia, and reports from Russian authorities could not be independently verified. However, Ukrainian officials said their forces hit a key Russian warship with missiles on Thursday. If true, the claim would represent a significant victory.

The missile cruiser Moskva, named after the Russian capital, sank while being towed to port after sustaining heavy damage in circumstances that remained controversial. Moscow acknowledged a fire on board but no attack. American and Western officials could not confirm the cause of the fire.

The Moskva had the capacity to carry 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its removal reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea. The loss of the warship in an invasion already widely seen as a historic mistake was also a symbolic defeat for Moscow as its troops regroup for an offensive in eastern Ukraine after pulling out of Ukraine. much of the north.

During the early days of the war, the crew of the Moskva reportedly called on Ukrainian soldiers stationed on Snake Island in the Black Sea to come to a standoff. A widely circulated recording featured a Ukrainian soldier saying in response, “Russian warship, go (expletive) yourself.

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

If Ukraine hit the Moskva with missiles, the cruiser likely represents the largest warship sunk in combat since the 1982 Falklands War, which saw a similarly sized cruiser called ARA General Belgrano torpedoed by a submarine. British sailor, killing over 300 sailors on board. .

In his late night address Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Ukrainians they should be proud to have survived 50 days under Russian attack while the invaders “gave us a maximum of five”.

Listing the means by which Ukraine defended itself against the onslaught, Zelenskyy mentioned “those which showed that Russian warships can navigate, even if it is on the bottom” of the sea. It was his only reference to the Moskva.

News about the flagship has overshadowed 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 – at a horrendous cost to civilians.

Fewer and fewer Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol 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.

The capture of Mariupol is essential for Russia because it would allow its forces in the south, 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 imminent offensive.

The Russian military continues to field helicopters and other equipment for such an effort, according to a senior US defense official, and is likely to add more ground combat units soon. But it is still unclear when Russia might launch a full-scale campaign in the Donbass.

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

Maksym Marchenko, governor of the Odessa region, said Ukrainian forces hit the Moskva 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 and the crew, usually around 500 people, abandoned ship. It was unclear if there were any casualties. 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 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, can hit targets up to 280 kilometers away. This would have put the Moskva within range, depending on where the ship 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.

British defense officials said the loss of the Moskva would likely force Moscow to change the way its naval forces operate in the Black Sea. In a social media post on Friday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the ship, which returned to operational service last year after a major refit, “has played a key role both as a command and air defense node”.

The sinking “means that Russia has now suffered damage to two key naval assets since invading Ukraine, the first being the Russian Alligator-class landing ship Saratov on March 24. These two events will probably lead Russia to review its maritime position in the Black Sea,” the British ministry said.

Other Russian ships in the northern Black Sea moved further south after the Moskva incident on Thursday, said a senior US defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss assessments. internal military.

Although the United States was unable to confirm Ukraine’s claims that the warship was hit, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called it “a blow for Russia”.

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

Russia invaded on February 24 and potentially lost thousands of fighters. The conflict has killed countless Ukrainian civilians and forced millions more to flee.

It also further inflated prices at grocery stores and gas pumps, while dampening the global economy. The head of the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that the war had prompted the organization to revise economic forecasts for 143 countries downwards.

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Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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Christi C. Elwood