ODESSA | Russia has suffered one of its biggest material setbacks since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, the cruiser Moskva, flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, having been “severely damaged” by an explosion of munitions according to Moscow , and by missile strikes according to Ukrainian officials.
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As the Russian military is poised to take control of the strategic port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov and expand its offensive into southern and eastern Ukraine, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva was “severely damaged”, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, quoted by state agencies Ria Novosti and Tass.
“Due to a fire, ammunition exploded on board”, and the crew was entirely evacuated, indicated the ministry, specifying that an investigation was in progress to determine the origin of this fire.
Local Ukrainian authorities said the Moskva, a 186-meter building, had been hit by missiles.
“Neptune missiles which protect the Black Sea have caused significant damage to this Russian ship”, welcomed the Ukrainian governor of the Odessa region (south), Maxime Marchenko.
A spokesman for the Odessa military administration, Sergey Bratchouk, indicated on Telegram that “according to available data”, Ukrainian missiles were “at the origin of the serious damage” suffered by the ship.
The Moskva was commissioned from the time of the Soviet Union in 1983 and took part in the Russian intervention in Syria from 2015.
In the early days of the invasion of Ukraine, he took part in an attack on Serpents’ Island, near the Romanian border, in which 19 Ukrainian sailors were captured to be exchanged for prisoners. Russians.
Massive military aid
In Washington, President Joe Biden promised his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky massive new military aid of $800 million, including heavy equipment that the United States has so far been reluctant to deliver to Kyiv for fear of to further aggravate their tensions with Moscow and to be considered parties to the war.
And this as Russia threatened to strike command centers in Kyiv, accusing Ukraine of attacks on its territory.
“We are seeing sabotage attempts and strikes by Ukrainian forces on targets on the territory of the Russian Federation,” said Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry.
“If such events continue, strikes will be carried out by the Russian military on decision-making centers, including in Kyiv, which the Russian military has refrained from doing so far,” he said. he warned.
Russian forces withdrew from the Kyiv region at the end of March. For a month, they tried to encircle the capital, in vain, and carried out strikes there.
Mr. Konashenkov also announced on Wednesday that the Mariupol commercial port area had been completely conquered.
Shortly before, Moscow had announced the surrender of more than a thousand Ukrainian soldiers in this strategic port city that its forces have been besieging and bombarding for more than 40 days.
The mayor of Mariupol Vadim Boitchenko on Thursday denied on the German public channel Das Erste the Russian takeover of the port of Mariupol, calling it “fake news”.
“The Russians are deploying new forces, but we are holding the line and Mariupol remains a Ukrainian city, which makes Russia furious”
“It is clear that the Russian army has committed thousands of war crimes in this city”, he added, asking “the international community to show humanity by creating humanitarian corridors to save lives”.
Ukraine announced Thursday a resumption of evacuations of civilians via nine humanitarian corridors, in particular from Mariupol after a day of suspension due according to Kyiv to Russian violations of the ceasefire.
The capture of Mariupol would be an important victory for the Russians as it would allow them to consolidate their coastal territorial gains along the Sea of Azov by linking the Donbass region, partly controlled by their supporters, to Crimea which Moscow annexed in 2014.
If some experts consider its fall inevitable, Ukrainian soldiers continue to resist, the fighting now being concentrated in the gigantic industrial zone of this city.
The Russian aerial bombardments are aimed in particular at the port and the vast Azovstal metallurgical complex, the Ukrainian army said on Wednesday.
This labyrinth, transformed into a bastion by the Ukrainian soldiers who took refuge in its kilometers of underground passages, promises a fierce battle.
On the spot, AFP journalists embarked with the Russian forces saw the charred ruins of this city which the Ukrainians say “90% destroyed”.
Since the beginning of the week there have been rumors, so far unconfirmed, of the use of chemical weapons by the Russians in Mariupol.
Moscow, for its part, claims that “the threat of chemical terrorism” comes from the Ukrainians.
The bombardments also continue in the eastern part of Ukraine, where they have caused the death of seven people in the past 24 hours in Kharkiv, a city in the northeast also besieged since the start of the Russian invasion.
Kyiv called on the population of these regions to flee as soon as possible for fear of an imminent major Russian offensive for full control of Donbass, which Ukrainian troops and their pro-Russian separatist enemies have shared since 2014.
Analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin, mired in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance, wants to secure a victory in Donbass ahead of the May 9 military parade in Red Square marking the Soviet victory over the Nazis in 1945.
The head of one of the two unilaterally proclaimed pro-Russian separatist “republics” in this vast mining territory, Leonid Passetchnik, said on Wednesday that his troops now controlled “80 to 90%” of the Lugansk region, one of the priority targets of the Kremlin.
Ukraine has become a veritable “crime scene”, judged on Wednesday in Boutcha, near Kyiv, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the Briton Karim Khan.
“We are here because we have good reason to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court are being committed. We must pierce the fog of war to reach the truth,” he told the press in this locality which has become the symbol of the atrocities of the conflict. Hundreds of bodies, according to the Ukrainian authorities, were discovered there at the end of March, Russia for its part denying any abuse in Ukraine.
Karim Khan visiting Boutcha.
Around the capital as elsewhere, the Ukrainian authorities say every day that they find corpses in the areas from which the Russians have withdrawn.
In a village in the south of Kherson, a city close to the front line, seven people were shot by Russian soldiers in a house which they then blew up to conceal the crime, denounced the Ukrainian general prosecutor’s office on Wednesday.
In Dnipro, in the east, deputy mayor Mikhail Lyssenko said the bodies of more than 1,500 Russian soldiers that “no one wants to recover” lay in morgues in this large industrial city.
For his part, the spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense reported on Thursday that a Bayraktar TB-2 drone, a MiG-29 fighter and a helicopter were destroyed in Dnipro.
Igor Konashenkov also said that 770 targets were hit by missiles and artillery, including 9 command posts and an S-300 defense system. He also reported 48 military installations hit from the air in 24 hours, without specifying where these targets were hit.
It is in this context that the head of Irish diplomacy Simon Coveney travels to Kyiv on Thursday to discuss with the Ukrainian government the political, security and humanitarian support of Ireland, a non-permanent member of the Security Council of the UN.