©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Russian missile cruiser Moskva docks in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Ukraine May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
By Pavel Polityuk and Oleksandr Kozkukhar
Kyiv/LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Powerful explosions were heard in Kyiv early on Friday and air raid sirens wailed across Ukraine as residents braced for fresh Russian attacks after Moscow’s lead warship sank in the Black Sea following a fire.
The blasts appeared to be among the most significant in Ukraine’s capital region since Russian troops withdrew from the area earlier this month to prepare for fighting in the south and east.
Ukraine claimed responsibility for the sinking of the Moscow River, saying the flagship of Russia’s Soviet-era Black Sea Fleet was hit by one of its missiles. The ship sank late Thursday while being towed into port, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.
Over 500 crew members aboard the missile cruiser were evacuated after ammunition on board exploded, the ministry said, without acknowledging an attack. Ukraine said it hit the warship with a locally made Neptune anti-ship missile.
The loss of the ship comes as the Russian Navy resumes its bombing of Ukrainian Black Sea towns nearly 50 days after the invasion began. The residents of Odessa and Mariupol on the adjacent Sea of Azov braced themselves for new Russian attacks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to the sunken warship in an early morning video address, warning of Russian intentions to attack the eastern Donbass region, including Mariupol.
Zelenskyy paid tribute to all those “who have stopped the progress of the endless convoys of Russian military equipment… Those who have shown that Russian ships… can go to the bottom”.
There were no immediate reports of damage after the blasts in Kyiv, Kherson to the south, the eastern city of Kharkiv and the city of Ivano-Frankivsk to the west. Ukrainian media reported power outages in parts of Kiev.
Air raid sirens went off in all regions of Ukraine just after midnight on Friday and continued to blare in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Zaporizhia, even after other regions fell silent, Ukrainian media said.
Reuters could not immediately verify the reports.
Whatever the cause of the loss of the Moscow River, the episode is a setback for Russia. If Ukraine’s claims of hitting the ship in a missile attack are true, the attack will go down in history as one of the most high-profile naval attacks of this century.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said it was investigating the cause of the fire on board. The United States said it did not have enough information to determine if the Moscow River was hit by a missile.
“(But) the way this has played out is certainly a huge blow to Russia,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.
Russian forces have withdrawn from some northern parts of Ukraine after suffering heavy casualties and failing to capture Kyiv. Ukraine and its western allies say Moscow is repositioning itself for a new offensive in the eastern Donbass region.
Russia partially launched its attack to dissuade Ukraine from joining NATO. But the invasion has prompted Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, and nearby Sweden to consider joining the US-led military alliance.
Moscow warned NATO on Thursday that if Sweden and Finland joined, Russia would deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea in the heart of Europe.
Commenting on Russia’s military backlash, CIA Director William Burns said the threat that Russia might use nuclear weapons in Ukraine should not be taken lightly, but the agency had not seen much practical evidence to substantiate these concerns.
FIGHT FOR MARIUPOL
Moscow describes its invasion as a “military special operation” aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine. Kyiv and its allies say Russia has launched an unprovoked war that has seen more than 4.6 million people flee abroad and thousands killed or wounded.
The Russian Navy has fired cruise missiles at Ukraine and its Black Sea activities are crucial in supporting land operations to the south and east, where it is fighting for complete control of Mariupol.
Russia said Wednesday that more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines surrendered to one of the units still in Mariupol. Ukrainian officials did not comment.
Should Mariupol be taken, it would be the first major city to fall to Russian forces since their invasion, allowing Moscow to reinforce a land corridor between the separatist-held eastern Donbass territories and the Crimea region captured and annexed in 2014 .
Ukraine said tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in Mariupol, where efforts to evacuate civilians are underway.
The Russian Defense Ministry said late Thursday that 815 people had been evacuated from the city in the past 24 hours. Ukraine said that number was 289.
https://www.investing.com/news/world-news/powerful-explosions-heard-in-kyiv-after-russian-warship-sinks-2804456 Powerful explosions heard in Kyiv after a Russian warship sank by Reuters