As Russia loses warship, Zelenskyy pays tribute to the determination of the Ukrainians

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – On a day when Moscow suffered a stinging symbolic defeat with the loss of the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, the President of Ukraine praised his people for their determination since Russia invaded in February and for making “the most important decision of their lives” – to fight.”

In his evening speech, Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the Ukrainians late Thursday that they should be proud to have survived 50 days under Russian attack, as the attackers “gave us a maximum of five.”

At the time, even friendly world leaders urged him to leave, unsure if Ukraine could survive, he said: “But they did not know how brave Ukrainians are, how much we value freedom and the opportunity to live as we want.”

With a list of the ways Ukraine has defended against the attack, Zelenskyy noted “those who showed that Russian warships can sail away, even if it is to the bottom” of the sea.

It was his only reference to the guided missile cruiser Moscow, named after the Russian capital, which became a potent target for Ukrainians despite the beginning of the war. It sank Thursday while being towed to port after suffering major damage in circumstances that were still under dispute.

Ukrainian officials said their forces hit the vessel with missiles, while Moscow acknowledged a fire on board but no attack. U.S. and other Western officials could not confirm what caused the fire. In any case, the loss was a symbolic defeat for Russia as its troops regrouped into a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine after withdrawing from large parts of the north, including the capital Kiev.

Moscow had the capacity to carry 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its removal reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea. It is also a blow to Moscow’s prestige in a war that is already widely regarded as a historic blunder.. Now heading into its eighth week, the invasion has stalled due to resistance from Ukrainian fighters backed by weapons and other aid sent by Western nations.

Youtube video thumbnail

During the early days of the war, Moscow was reportedly the ship that urged Ukrainian soldiers stationed on Snake Island in the Black Sea to surrender in a standoff. In a widespread recording, a soldier replied, “Russian warship, go (pronounced) yourself.”

The Associated Press could not independently confirm the incident, but Ukraine and its supporters view it as an iconic moment of defiance. The country recently unveiled a stamp commemorating it.

If Ukraine carried out the attack, Moscow probably represents the largest warship that has been sunk in combat since the Falklands War in 1982, in which a cruiser of the same size called the ARA General Belgrano was torpedoed by a British submarine, killing over 300 sailors on board.

The news of the flagship overshadowed Russian claims of progress in the southern port city of Mariupol, where Moscow’s forces have been battling the Ukrainians since the early days of the invasion in some of the war’s toughest battles – at a terrible price for civilians..

A dwindling number of Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol are facing a siege that has captured well over 100,000 civilians in desperate need of food, water and heat. David Beasley, executive director of the UN World Food Program, told the AP in an interview Thursday that people are being “starved to death” in the besieged city.

The mayor of Mariupol said this week that more than 10,000 civilians had died and that the death toll could exceed 20,000, after weeks of attacks and longing, the streets were covered with corpses.

Mariupol’s capture is critical of Russia because it would allow its forces in the south, which came up through the annexed Crimean peninsula, to fully connect with troops in the Donbas region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, and the target of the coming offensive.

The Russian military continues to move helicopters and other equipment together for such an effort, according to a senior U.S. defense officer, and it will likely soon add more combat units to the ground. But it is still unclear when Russia may launch a major offensive in the Donbas.

Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine in the Donbas since 2014, the same year that Russia conquered Crimea. Russia has recognized independence of the rebel regions of the Donbas.

Maksym Marchenko, governor of the Odesa region, said Ukrainian forces hit Moscow with two Neptune missiles and caused “serious damage”.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said ammunition on board detonated as a result of a fire without saying what caused the fire. It said the “main missile weapons” were not damaged and that the crew, which usually numbers around 500, left the vessel. It was not clear if there were any injured. In addition to the cruise missiles, the warship also had air defense missiles and other cannons.

Neptune is an anti-ship missile recently developed by Ukraine based on a former Soviet design. The launch pads are mounted on trucks stationed near the coast and, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, can hit targets up to 280 kilometers (175 miles) away. It would have put Moscow within reach, based on where the ship was when the fire began.

Launched as Slava in 1979, the cruiser served in the Cold War and during conflicts in Georgia and Syria, and helped conduct peacetime scientific research with the United States. During the Cold War, it carried nuclear weapons.

On Thursday, other Russian ships in the northern Black Sea moved further south after the Moscow incident, said a senior U.S. defense officer who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal military assessments.

While the United States was unable to confirm Ukraine’s claims of attacking the warship, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called it “a major blow to Russia.”

“They have had to choose between two stories: one story is that it was just incompetence and the other was that they came under attack, and that is not a very good result for them either,” Sullivan told Economic Club of Washington. .

Russia invaded on February 24 and has potentially lost thousands of fighters. The conflict has killed countless Ukrainian civilians and forced millions to flee.

It has also further increased prices in grocery stores and petrol pumps while pulling on the global economy. The head of the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that the war helped pressure the organization to downgrade economic forecasts for 143 countries.

Also on Thursday, Russian authorities accused Ukraine of sending two low-flying military helicopters about 11 kilometers (7 miles) across the border and firing at residential buildings in the village of Klimovo in Russia’s Bryansk region. Russia’s investigative committee said seven people, including a small child, were injured.

Russia’s state security service had previously said Ukrainian forces fired mortar rounds at a border post in Bryansk as refugees crossed, forcing them to flee.

The reports could not be independently verified.

___

Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Leave a Comment