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

Russia’s Defense Ministry warned on April 15 that it will intensify attacks on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, after accusing Ukraine of targeting Russian border towns.

The statement came a day after Russia suffered a symbolic defeat with the loss of its Black Sea fleet flagship, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed his people for their resolve since Russia invaded in February and for making “the most important decision of their life — to fight.”

Zelenskiy told Ukrainians late on April 14 that they should be proud of having survived 50 days under Russian attack when the invaders “gave us a maximum of five.”

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Zelenskiy noted “those who showed that Russian warships can sail away, even if it’s to the bottom” of the sea in a reference to Russia’s guided-missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which sank in the Black Sea after being damaged in disputed circumstances.

“The number and the scale of missile attacks on objects in Kyiv will be ramped up in response to the Kyiv nationalist regime committing any terrorist attacks or diversions on Russian territory,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said.

Kyiv claimed to have hit the Moskva with Neptune anti-ship missiles early on April 14, while Russia said a fire broke out on the ship, causing an explosion.

The U.S. military agreed with the Ukrainian version.

“We assess that they hit it with two Neptunes,” a senior Pentagon official said in a briefing with reporters on April 15, calling it a “big blow” for Moscow.

The strikes were believed to have caused casualties, but it was difficult to assess how many, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official added that the United States had observed survivors being recovered by other Russian vessels in the area. Russia said the Moskva’s crew was evacuated to nearby ships.

Natalia Humenyuk, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern military forces, said the Ukrainian side expects Russia to take revenge.

The strike on the Moskva “hit not only the ship itself, it hit the enemy’s imperial ambitions. We are all aware that we will not be forgiven for this,” she said during a briefing. “We are aware that attacks against us will intensify and that the enemy will take revenge,” she added, citing ongoing strikes on cities in the south of Ukraine, Odesa, and Mykolaiv.

On April 15, Russian troops fired on almost all settlements in the Luhansk region, killing and injuring civilians, Ukrainian authorities said.

“Occupying Russian troops fired mortars, artillery, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers at the cities of Syevyerodonetsk, Rubizhne, Kreminna, Lysychansk, Popasna, Hirske, Zolote, Orikhove, and Novotoshkivka 26 times,” Ukraine’s national police agency said.

Powerful explosions were heard in Kyiv on April 15, according to local media, and fighting raged in the east.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that Russian troops hit a “military” factory outside Kyiv late on April 14 using Kalibr sea-based long-range missiles.

The Ukrainian presidency says explosions were heard in the Vasylkiv area outside the capital.

The Russian ministry also said its S-400 missile system shot down a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter, which carried out “an attack on civilians in the locality of Klimovo in the Bryansk region on April 14.”

On April 14, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) rejected Russia’s accusations about the attacks on Russian towns, calling them “an attempt to ignite anti-Ukraine hysteria in Russia.”

Explosions were also heard on April 15 in the southern city of Kherson, the eastern city of Kharkiv, and in Ukraine’s western city of Ivano-Frankivsk, media reported.

Ukrainian authorities continue to expect an imminent, stepped-up offensive by Russian forces in the eastern part of the country.

Some areas in the east have already felt the brunt of Russian attacks. An official in the Kharkiv region said at least 503 civilians have been killed since the invasion began. Regional Governor Oleh Synehubov said in a post on Telegram that the dead included 24 children.

The city near the Russian border has been on the eastern front line since the start of the war and has suffered massive destruction.

Efforts to evacuate people from the southern port city of Mariupol continued on April 15. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iyrna Vereshchuk said 363 people from Mariupol were among 2,864 people who were evacuated from conflict zones.

Ukraine says tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in Mariupol, a strategic city that has seen some of the worst fighting of the war.

Seven people were killed and more than two dozen injured in a Russian attack on buses ferrying civilians in the village of Borova in the Izyum district, the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General’s Office said in a statement on social media.

In Russia, the Federal Security Service (FSB) has asked the government to increase funding for troop funeral services and tombstones.

The FSB asked for a 17 percent increase for funeral services, according to documents recently posted to a government website.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa

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