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Key Russian Ship Sinks In Black Sea, Russia Says As Battle Around Mariupol Continues

By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service April 14, 2022

Russia's guided-missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, has sunk in the Black Sea after being damaged during the military operation in Ukraine, Russia's Defense Ministry said late on April 14.

The ministry said the vessel sank while being towed to port in a storm after it was heavily damaged by fire. Ukrainian officials said their forces hit the vessel with missiles earlier in the day.

"The vessel lost its balance due to damage sustained in the hull as fire broke out after ammunition exploded," TASS quoted the ministry as saying. "Given the choppy seas, the vessel sank."

The loss of the warship named for the Russian capital was seen as a symbolic defeat for Moscow, which had already been forced to pull its forces back from northern Ukraine earlier this month.

The Moskva could carry 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its loss will greatly reduce Russia's firepower in the Black Sea.

Russia's Defense Ministry said earlier that a fire on the Moskva caused ammunition to blow up, and its crew had been evacuated. It denied there had been an attack on the ship.

But Maksym Marchenko, the Ukrainian governor of the region around the Black Sea port of Odesa, said the ship had been hit by two Ukrainian-made Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles.

Ukraine said it launched the cruise missile strike amid expectations Moscow is shifting its focus in the war to the east as fierce fighting continues to batter the port city of Mariupol where the defenders were still holding out.

The sinking of the warship is a "big blow" to Russia's naval strength in the Black Sea, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

"This is...a key part of their efforts to execute some sort of naval dominance in the Black Sea," he told CNN.

Emboldened by the development, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy again appealed for Western countries to ship more weapons.

"We are not afraid of anything, because we know what we are fighting for," Zelenskiy said on Twitter. "We have enough courage to put an end to evil. Stop feeding the [Russian] military machine. Help [Ukraine] with weapons. Then peace and good will win much faster."

Russia accused Ukrainian forces of launching air strikes on the Russian region of Bryansk on April 14, injuring civilians. Russia's Investigative Committee alleged that two Ukrainian military helicopters entered Russia's air space and carried out air strikes on residential buildings in the village of Klimovo.

National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) rejected the accusations, calling them "an attempt to ignite anti-Ukraine hysteria in Russia."

In nearby Mariupol, heavy fighting was reported as Russia tries to seize full control of the strategic city, which if true would be the first city Moscow has been able to capture since it launched the war on February 24.

Russia has said that more 1,000 Ukrainian marines surrendered over the past 36 hours, but Ukrainian military officials have not confirmed the reports, saying only that Ukrainian forces were joining up in the city to continue defending it.

Mariupol has emerged as a key battleground as it would give Russia a land corridor between separatist-held eastern areas and the Crimea region it seized and annexed in 2014. It would also free up troops engaged there to help in a wider assault in the south and east of Ukraine.

As the fighting raged, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said nine humanitarian corridors had been agreed upon with Russia to allow for the evacuation of civilians from several cities, including Mariupol, on April 14

Vereshchuk also said that a new prisoner swap had been agreed with Russia and that, in total, 30 Ukrainians would be going home on April 14.

Russia's war on Ukraine has been widely criticized, with the international community imposing crippling sanctions on Moscow while at the same time isolating it diplomatically. U.S. President Joe Biden said on April 13 that the conflict amounted to genocide.

Ukraine's parliament backed a resolution on April 14 recognizing the actions of Russian forces as genocide -- defined by the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention as crimes intended "to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part."

The Russian Army's actions "are not just a crime of aggression, but pursue the goal of the systematic and consistent destruction of the Ukrainian people," the text of the resolution said.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was visiting Kyiv on April 14 to focus on how Dublin can continue to provide political, security and humanitarian support to Ukraine, assist Kyiv in its application for European Union candidate status, take forward further EU sanctions on Russia, and "hold Russia to account for its brutal and unjustified invasion."

The war has also raised security concerns in other countries in Europe, with Sweden and Finland saying on April 13 that it could be only a matter of weeks before they apply to join the NATO security alliance.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council and one of President Vladimir Putin's closest allies, warned on April 14 that such a move by the two Nordic countries would end the concept of a "nuclear-free" Baltic region.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/moskva-missile- cruiser-damaged/31802678.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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