Ukrainian forces said they hit and badly damaged the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, and Russia said its crew was forced to evacuate as a result of a fire without acknowledging an attack, as the battle shifts east and around the battered city of Mariupol where the defenders were still holding out.
The governor of the Odesa region, Maksym Marchenko, said the Ukrainians struck the guided-missile cruiser Moskva with two missiles and caused “serious damage.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed the ship was damaged but not that it was hit by Ukraine — it said ammunition on board detonated as a result of a fire of as-yet undetermined causes. The entire crew was evacuated, it added; the cruiser typically has about 500 on board.
If confirmed, the sinking of the cruiser would be a major blow to Russia, after the tank carrier Orsk was hit and set on fire in an attack in Berdyansk in the Sea of Azov late last month.
The reported ship attack by Neptune cruise missiles came a day after President Joe Biden called Russia’s actions in Ukraine “a genocide” and approved $800 million in new military assistance to Kyiv, saying weapons from the West have sustained Ukraine’s fight so far and “we cannot rest now.” The munitions include artillery systems, armored personnel carriers and helicopters.