US says Ukrainian missiles hit Russian warship as Moscow threatens kyiv
The Russian cruiser Moskva was hit by two Ukrainian missiles before sinking, a senior US official said on Friday as Russia threatened to increase the scale of its own strikes against kyiv after the loss of the ship.
The official said the US now believes the Moskva, which sank on Thursday, was hit by Neptune missiles fired by Ukrainian forces, confirming kyiv’s account of what happened to the Russian flagship from the sea Black. There are believed to be an unknown number of casualties, the official said.
The Pentagon’s assessment came a day after Russia admitted it had lost the Moskva – arguably the biggest setback of its 50-day spraying campaign – as it prepares for a new offensive in the southeast of Ukraine.
Russia had said the Moskva sank in a storm after a fire on board ignited its ammunition stores. He did not acknowledge that Ukraine hit the vessel and claims he managed to evacuate the entire crew.
Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, said in a message on his Telegram channel on Friday that Moskva commander Anton Kuprin was killed in an explosion and fire on board. The information could not be verified.
Earlier, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russia would step up its attacks on targets in Kyiv in response to any further attempts by Ukrainian forces to carry out “sabotage” on Russian soil. During the night, air-raid sirens sounded in cities across Ukraine, and loud booms sounded in kyiv.
Diplomatic tension erupted between the Kremlin and the EU as Russia said it was expelling 18 diplomats from the Brussels delegation to Moscow. Russia said the expulsions were a response to “unfriendly” actions by the EU. The EU said it deplored the move, a tit-for-tat response to Brussels expelling a similar number of Russian diplomats earlier this month.
The sinking of the Moskva was greeted with jubilation in Ukraine. Resistance to the ship became an early symbol of the struggle against Russia when Ukrainian troops, ordered by the Moskva to surrender, responded by saying, “Russian military ship, fuck you.”
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov posted a photo of himself diving on Twitter and said: “A ‘flagship’ Russian warship is a worthy dive site. We now have one more dive spot in the Black Sea. I will definitely visit the wreck after we win the war.
Russia presented its strikes as a response to what it claims were a series of increasingly daring Ukrainian raids behind Russian lines, including an apparent attack on a railway bridge on a supply route near Belgorod.
On Friday, Russia said it destroyed one of several helicopters it said attacked a village in Bryansk, another border region, where investigators said two residential buildings were destroyed and eight people injured.
Ukraine has not taken responsibility for the attacks, which some analysts believe President Vladimir Putin could use as a pretext to expand the invasion.
Ukraine’s military said Russia was gathering forces for an eastern assault. “The enemy continues to focus its efforts on preparations for an offensive operation on eastern Ukraine and the seizure of the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the creation of a so-called land corridor with . . . Crimea,” Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said in a Friday press briefing.
He added that the Russian military continued to use rockets to strike Ukrainian civilian infrastructure and that on Thursday two strategic bombers from the airspace above Krasnodar in southern Russia launched missiles from cruise on Ukrainian territory.
Motuzyanyk also said that for the first time since the start of the war, Russia used Tupolev 2 and Tupolev 3 long-range bombers in the besieged city of Mariupol.
The Kremlin’s justifications and goals for the war are changing as Russia regroups to try to seize the eastern border region of Donbass.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told reporters on Friday that “the most important thing is to release [Ukraine] of these nationalist battalions” – far-right fringe groups that Russia falsely claims have taken control of the Ukrainian government.
“The operation is continuing and the tasks ahead are well known. They must and will be completed. There should be no doubt,” Peskov said, according to Interfax.
Natalia Humeniuk, spokeswoman for Ukraine’s military in the south, said on Friday that Mykolaiv, a strategic city under Ukrainian control, was being bombed in what she said was retaliation for the sinking of the Moskva.
“The situation in southern Ukraine is indeed tense,” Humeniuk told a press briefing. “Stable but tense.”
“When the Moscow cruiser was hit, it affected not only the ships, but also Russia’s imperial ambitions. And we understand of course that they will not forget. They will not forgive,” Humeniuk said.
Additional reporting by Henry Foy in Brussels