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Russia says warship “severely damaged” by blast as Putin builds forces in eastern Ukraine | Ukraine

Russia says the flagship of its Black Sea Fleet has been severely damaged and its crew evacuated following an explosion that a Ukrainian official said was the result of a missile strike.

“As a result of the fire, ammunition was detonated on the missile cruiser” Moscow “. The ship was seriously damaged, “the Russian Ministry of Defense was quoted as saying by the state news agency TASS, adding that the cause of the fire was being established and that the crew had been evacuated.

A Ukrainian official said earlier that Moscow had been hit by two anti-ship missiles, but gave no evidence.

“The Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea have caused very serious damage to the Russian ship,” Odessa Governor Maxim Marchenko wrote in the Telegram.

Moscow gained notoriety at the start of the war when it called on Ukrainian border troops defending the strategic Snake Island – a small uplift in the Black Sea – to surrender, but defiantly refused.

Last month, Ukraine said it had destroyed a large Russian landing craft, Orsk, in the smaller Sea of ​​Azov northeast of the Black Sea. Moscow has not commented on what happened to the ship.

Russia’s military failure comes when Ukraine warned that Moscow was stepping up efforts to the south and east, claiming it had taken full control of the besieged port of Mariupol.

“The rocket bombings and the artillery strikes continue. New columns of equipment are being introduced, “said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his evening address.

More than 1,000 Ukrainian marines defending the besieged city of Mariupol have surrendered and the port has been taken, Moscow said, while the presidents of four countries bordering Russia arrived in Kyiv to demonstrate support for Ukraine.

In one of the most critical battles of the war, the Russian Defense Ministry said that on Wednesday, 1,026 soldiers from Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, including 162 officers, “voluntarily laid down their arms” near the city’s Ilyich railway plant. .

It was later said that Mariupol’s “trading port” was under the full control of Russian forces.

There was no independent confirmation of the allegations. Ukraine’s defense ministry said there was no information about the surrender, and the Ukrainian military command said only that Russian forces were attacking the Azovstal industrial zone and the port.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who says his forces play a key role in the battle, called on the last Ukrainians hiding in Azovstal to surrender. The 26th Marine Brigade said Monday it was preparing for a final battle in Mariupol.

The city, the main target not yet under Russian control in the eastern region of Donbass, was surrounded and largely ruined during Moscow’s seven-week invasion. The mayor said 21,000 civilians had died and more than 100,000 remained there awaiting evacuation.

Its takeover will be the first fall of a major Ukrainian city and will help Russia secure a land passage between the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas and Crimea, which Moscow occupied and annexed in 2014.

Map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

US President Joe Biden announced $ 800 million in new US military aid to Ukraine on Wednesday. He said it would include artillery, armored personnel carriers and helicopters. Biden added that it “will contain many of the high-efficiency weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities in line with the wider attack we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine.”

The Polish and Baltic presidents traveled to the Ukrainian capital by train on Wednesday to show their support for President Vladimir Zelensky and his troops in the fighting, which Polish presidential adviser Jakub Kumoch called “this crucial moment for the country.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda, Estonian Alar Karis, Gitanas Nauseda of Lithuania and Egils Levits of Latvia met in the Polish city of Rzeszow near the Ukrainian border. “Heading to Kyiv with a strong message of political support and military assistance,” tweeted Nauseda from the station.

The program of the visit of the leaders of four NATO member states – who fear that they could face Russian attacks if Ukraine falls – was not revealed for security reasons, but local media reported that the heads of state visited Borodyanka, near to Kyiv.

Nauseda said the city was “soaked in pain and suffering” after “civilian Ukrainians were killed and tortured there and houses and other civilian infrastructure were bombed”.

He said it was hard to believe that such military atrocities could be committed in 21st century Europe, but that was the reality. This is a war we must win. “

Zelenski told Estonian lawmakers on Wednesday without providing evidence that Russia was using phosphorus bombs in Ukraine. Ukrainian forces in Mariupol said a drone had thrown poison over the city, but there was no independent confirmation that Russia had used banned chemical weapons.

As Russian troops have largely withdrawn from the Ukrainian capital amid strong resistance and logistical problems, Western officials and analysts say the invading forces are preparing for a major offensive in the east.

Military experts say local support, logistics, the region’s terrain and the appointment of a new senior general, Alexander Dvornikov, from Moscow could improve the performance of a force the British Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that had so far been “hampered by an inability to are coordinated and coordinated ”.

The command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that Russian forces are fully prepared for a new assault in the eastern part of Donetsk and southern Kherson. “In Donetsk and Tavria [Kherson] directions, according to available information, the enemy is ready for offensive action, “said in a post by the Armed Forces on Facebook. A later statement added that Russia was trying to mobilize up to 70,000 people in Donetsk.

In other developments:

  • Vladimir Zelensky condemned the refusal of French President Emmanuel Macron to call the killings in Ukraine “genocide” and his reference to the Russians as a “fraternal” people.

  • Senior U.S. officials are considering sending a high-ranking cabinet official to Kyiv as a high-ranking official in solidarity with Ukraine, a source familiar with the situation said Wednesday. The news was first announced by Politico.

  • Fiji police are investigating the arrival of a luxury ship owned by a Russian oligarch on Thursday, questioning its captain about how he brought the boat to the Pacific island nation without customs clearance. Fiji newspapers say police have captured the Amadea superyacht, owned by Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov – which has been sanctioned by the United States, Britain and the European Union over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and detained the crew.

    Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to the report