the “Moskva”, flagship of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea, “severely damaged”

In Washington, US President Joe Biden promised his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky a massive new $800 million military aid, including heavy equipment that the United States has so far been reluctant to deliver to Kiev for fear of further escalating tensions with Moscow and considered to be war parties.

And this while Russia threatened to attack command centers in Kiev and accused Ukraine of attacking its territory.

While the Russian military is about to take control of the strategic port of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov and extend its offensive into southern and eastern Ukraine, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, according to the Russian Defense Ministry “seriously damaged”. , quoted by state agencies Ria Novosti and Tass.

“Due to a fire, ammunition on board exploded,” and the crew was completely evacuated, the ministry said, adding that an investigation is underway to determine the origin of this fire. The Ukrainian authorities, for their part, claimed that the Moskva had been hit by missiles.

“Neptune missiles protecting the Black Sea have caused significant damage to this Russian ship,” said Maxim Marchenko, Ukraine’s governor of the Odessa (south) region.

An adviser to the Ukrainian president, Oleksiy Arestovich, said on YouTube that “a surprise has come for the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet”. “He burns with intensity. Utilities. And with these rough seas, it’s impossible to know when they can get help,” he said, assuring there were “510 crew members” on board. According to observers of the conflict, it could sink.

The Moskva entered service in 1983 at the time of the Soviet Union and participated in the Russian intervention in Syria from 2015 onwards.

In the early days of the invasion of Ukraine, he took part in an attack on Serpents’ Island, near the Romanian border, in which 19 Ukrainian sailors were captured to be later exchanged for Russian prisoners.

Mass military aid

In a phone call Wednesday with Mr. Zelensky, Joe Biden announced the shipment to Kiev of a large amount of equipment from US military supplies, including artillery, armor, radar, anti-tank missiles and drones and unmanned coastal defense craft, according to a White House statement.

The White House recently appeared to waive the distinction it made between supplying “defensive” equipment, which it had authorized, and “offensive,” which it refused to provide. This massive new military aid was promised when Russia threatened to attack Kiev again.

“We are seeing sabotage attempts and attacks by Ukrainian troops on targets on the territory of the Russian Federation,” said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

“If such events continue, strikes will be carried out by the Russian military on decision-making centers, including in Kiev, which the Russian military has not done so far,” he warned.

Konashenkov also announced on Wednesday that the commercial port area of ​​Mariupol had been completely conquered. Shortly before that, Russia had announced the surrender of more than a thousand Ukrainian soldiers in this strategic port city that its forces have been besieging and bombing for more than 40 days.

The capture of Mariupol would be a major victory for the Russians as it would allow them to consolidate their coastal gains along the Sea of ​​Azov by linking the Donbass region, partly controlled by their supporters, with the Crimea that Moscow conquered in 2014. annexed.

Though some experts consider its fall inevitable, Ukrainian soldiers continue to resist as the fighting is now concentrated in this city’s gigantic industrial zone, the massive Azovstal metallurgical complex. This labyrinth, transformed into a bastion by the Ukrainian soldiers who took refuge in its miles of underground passages, promises a fierce battle.

Since the beginning of the week, there have been rumors, so far unconfirmed, about the use of chemical weapons by the Russians in Mariupol. Moscow, for its part, claims that “the threat of chemical terrorism” comes from the Ukrainians.

The bombings also continue in eastern Ukraine, where they have caused the deaths of seven people in Kharkiv in the past 24 hours.

Kiev has called on the people of these regions to flee as soon as possible amid fears of an imminent major Russian offensive for complete control of Donbass, which Ukrainian forces and their pro-Russian separatist enemies have been sharing since 2014.

Analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin, mired in fierce Ukrainian resistance, wants to win a victory in Donbass ahead of the May 9 military parade in Red Square to mark the Soviet victory over the Nazis in 1945.

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