KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A day after Moscow suffered a symbolic crushing defeat with the loss of the flagship of its Black Sea Fleet, the Russian Defense Ministry on Friday vowed 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 injuring seven people and damaging around 100 residential buildings with airstrikes on Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine. Authorities in another region bordering Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling on Thursday.
kyiv gradually showed signs of pre-war life after Russian troops failed to capture the city and retreated to concentrate on a concentrated assault in eastern Ukraine, leaving evidence possible war crimes in their wake. Another bombardment could bring the capital’s residents back to the shelter of subway stations and the constant wail of air raid sirens.
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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 on Thursday 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. If Ukrainian forces destroyed the ship, Moskva probably represents the largest warship sunk in combat since the Falklands War. A British submarine torpedoed an Argentine Navy cruiser called ARA General Belgrano during the 1982 conflict, killing more than 300 sailors on board.
The loss of the Russian 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 withdrawing from the kyiv region and much of the north.
In his late night address Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the people of his country should be proud to have survived 50 days of attack while the Russian invaders “gave us a maximum of five”.
Zelenskyy did not mention the name of the Moskva, but while listing the means by which Ukraine defended itself against the onslaught, mentioned “those which showed that Russian warships can sail, even if c ‘is at the bottom’ of the sea. That was his only reference to the Moskva.
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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 The Associated Press in an interview on Thursday that people had “starved to death” 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. Other Ukrainian officials said they expected to find evidence of atrocities committed against civilians like those discovered in Bucha and other towns outside kyiv once the Russians withdrew.
The Mariupol City Council said on Friday that residents reported seeing Russian troops dig up bodies that were buried in residential yards and did not allow any further burial “of people killed by them”.
“Why the exhumation is taking place and where the bodies will be taken are unknown,” the council said in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging app.
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.
Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the Donbass since 2014, the same year Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine. Russia has recognized the independence of two rebel-held areas in the region.
Although it is not certain when Russia will launch the full-scale campaign, a Ukrainian regional official said on Friday that seven people died and 27 were injured after Russian forces opened fire on buses carrying civilians. in the village of Borovaya, near the northeastern city of Kharkiv.
Ukrainian law enforcement is working to establish the circumstances of the attack, Dmytro Chubenko, spokesman for the regional prosecutor’s office, told Ukrainian news site Suspilne.
Chubenko said Ukrainian authorities had opened criminal charges for an “alleged violation of the laws and customs of war, combined with premeditated murder”. Allegations of an attack on civilian buses could not be independently verified.
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The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that Russian strikes in the Kharkiv region “liquidated a mercenary squad of a Polish private military company” numbering up to 30 people and “liberated” a steel plant in Mariupol from ” Ukrainian nationalists”. The claims could not be independently verified.
On Thursday, the Defense Ministry explained that fire damage to Russia’s Black Sea flagship caused munitions stored on board to explode. In addition to cruise missiles, the warship also had air defense missiles and other guns.
The ministry did not say what could have caused the fire, but said the ‘main missile weapons’ were undamaged and the crew, usually around 500, had abandoned ship . It was unclear if there were any casualties.
Maksym Marchenko, governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region in the Black Sea, said Ukrainian forces struck the Moskva River with two Neptune missiles and caused “serious damage”. The Neptune is an anti-ship missile that was recently developed by Ukraine based on an earlier Soviet design.
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The missile 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 (175 miles) 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”.
Other Russian ships in the northern Black Sea moved further south after the Moskva incident, a senior US defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal military assessments.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and suffered thousands of military casualties. 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.
Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.