Ukrainian forces say they hit and severely damaged the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, and Russia said its crew was forced to evacuate as a result of the fire without acknowledging the attack as the battle shifted east and around the battered city of Mariupol, where the defenders were still staying.
Odessa Oblast Governor Maxim Marchenko said the Ukrainians had hit the Moscow missile cruiser with two missiles and caused “serious damage”.
Russia’s Defense Ministry has confirmed that the ship was damaged, but not that it was hit by Ukraine – it said the ammunition on board was detonated as a result of a fire for unknown reasons. The entire crew was evacuated, it is added; the cruiser usually has about 500 on board.
If confirmed, the sinking of the cruiser will be a serious blow to Russia after the tanker Orsk was hit and set on fire during an attack in Berdyansk in the Sea of Azov late last month.
The reported Neptune cruise missile strike came a day after President Joe Biden called Russia’s actions in Ukraine a “genocide” and approved $ 800 million in US military aid for Kyiv, saying Western weapons supported the battle. of Ukraine so far and “we can not rest now.” Ammunition includes artillery systems, armored personnel carriers and helicopters.
A local is passing a damaged Z-marked vehicle, which has become a symbol of the Russian military, in an area that Russian-backed separatists say they control in Mariupol on Wednesday. (Alexei Alexandrov / Associated Press)
Russia invaded on February 24 in order, according to Western officials, to seize Kyiv, overthrow the government and install a Moscow-friendly replacement. But the advance of the country slowly stopped and Russia lost potentially thousands of fighters. The conflict has killed huge numbers of Ukrainian civilians and forced millions of others to flee. It also shook the world economy, threatened global food supplies and upset the balance of post-Cold War Europe.
European leaders visit the war-torn city
The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have shown their support for Ukraine during a visit to war-torn areas on Wednesday, demanding responsibility for what they called war crimes.
They met with counterpart Vladimir Zelensky and visited Borodyanka, one of the cities near Kyiv, where evidence of atrocities was found after Russian troops withdrew to focus on the eastern part of the country.
“There is no doubt that they have committed war crimes. And they must be held accountable for that,” said Latvian President Egils Levits.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda added: “The fight for Europe’s future is taking place here. He called for tougher sanctions, including against Russian oil and gas supplies and all banks in the country.
A local resident is preparing to cook at the entrance to a building in Mariupol damaged during the fighting, in an area that Russian-backed separatists say they control on Wednesday. (Alexei Alexandrov / Associated Press)
In one of the most important battles of the war in the southern port city of Mariupol, the spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Major General. Igor Konashenkov said 1,026 servicemen from Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade had surrendered to a metal plant. But Vadim Denisenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, dismissed the allegation, telling Current Time television that “the battle for the seaport continues today.”
Contradictory reports from Mariupol
Russian troops are preparing for a major offensive in the eastern Donbass region, where Moscow’s separatist allies and Ukrainian forces have been fighting since 2014. Mariupol is a key element in Russia’s campaign and is in Donbass, which the Russians have been fighting for weeks.
It was unclear when the surrender may have taken place or how many forces were still defending Mariupol.
Russia’s state television aired on Wednesday what it said was Mariupol, showing dozens of men in camouflage walking with their hands up and carrying others on stretchers or chairs. A man was holding a white flag. In the background was a tall industrial building with broken windows and a missing roof, identified by the television operator as Ilyich’s metalwork.
In this still image, taken from a video released by Russian television on Wednesday, soldiers carry a wounded man on a stretcher while displaying a white flag at a location designated Mariupol, Ukraine. The report says the video shows Ukrainian Marines surrendering in Mariupol. Reuters could not independently confirm the transmission and authenticity of the Russian television footage. (RURTR / Handout / Reuters TV)
A UN working group has warned that the war threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries, which are facing even higher food and energy costs and increasingly difficult financial conditions. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the war is “accelerating” the food, energy and financial crisis in poorer countries, which are already struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and lack of access to finance.
In a nightly address, Zelensky noted that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court visited the Kiev suburb of Bucha, which until recently was controlled by Russian forces and where evidence of mass killings and more than 400 bodies was found.
“It is inevitable that Russian troops will be held accountable. “We will take everyone to tribunal, not just for what happened in Bucha,” Zelenski said late Wednesday.
He also said work on clearing tens of thousands of unexploded ordnance, mines and cables left in northern Ukraine by departing Russians continues. He called on people returning home to be careful with any unfamiliar items and report them to police.
WATCH Ukraine calls for more weapons:
Ukraine calls for military equipment ahead of imminent Russian attack
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for military equipment – such as weapons, armed vehicles and fighter jets – as the country’s armed forces prepare to take a more agile approach against heavy Russian attacks in the Donbass region. 2:01
Also Wednesday, a report commissioned by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe found “clear patterns of violations of (international humanitarian law) by Russian forces in hostilities”. It is written by experts selected by Ukraine and published by the Vienna-based organization that promotes security and human rights.
The report says there are violations from Ukraine as well, but concludes that those committed by Russia “are much larger in scale and nature.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that his troops committed atrocities, saying on Tuesday that Moscow had “no choice but to invade” and would “continue until its tasks are completed and completed.” He insisted that Russia’s campaign was on track despite a major withdrawal after its forces failed to capture the capital and suffered significant losses.
The father and friend of 30-year-old Anatoly Kolesnikov, who was killed by Russian soldiers in his car while trying to evacuate from Irpin, mourns his death while waiting in front of a morgue in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Wednesday. (Rodrigo Abd / Associated Press)