Ukrainian officials said their forces hit the ship with missiles, while Russia acknowledged the fire aboard the Moscow, but did not attack.

Kyiv, Ukraine – The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, a guided missile cruiser that became a powerful target of Ukrainian disobedience in the early days of the war, sank on Thursday after being badly damaged in the recent failure of the Moscow invasion.

Ukrainian officials said their forces hit the ship with missiles, while Russia acknowledged the fire aboard the Moscow, but did not attack. U.S. and other Western officials have been unable to confirm what caused the blaze.

The loss of a warship named after the Russian capital is a devastating symbolic defeat for Moscow, as its troops regroup for a new offensive in eastern Ukraine after retreating from most of the north, including the capital.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the ship sank during a storm while being towed to port. Earlier, Russia said that the flames on the ship, which usually has 500 sailors on board, forced the entire crew to evacuate. It was later reported that the fire had been extinguished and that the ship would be towed to a port with intact missile launchers.

The ship can carry 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its withdrawal from combat reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea. It is also a blow to Russia’s prestige in a war that is already widely considered historical error. Now, entering its eighth week, the Russian invasion has stopped because of resistance from Ukrainian militants, backed by weapons and other aid sent by Western countries.

News of the damage to the flagship overshadowed Russia’s statements about the offensive in the southern port city of Mariupol, where they fought with the Ukrainians from the first days of the invasion of one of the most difficult battles of the war – a terrible price for the civilian population.

A spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry, Major General Igor Kanashenko, said on Wednesday that 1,026 Ukrainian servicemen had surrendered at a metallurgical plant in the city. But adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Vadim Denisenko rejected the statement, saying to Current Time TV that “the battle for the seaport continues today.”

It was unclear how many more forces Mariupol was defending.

Russian state television broadcast footage from Mariupol showing dozens of men in camouflage walking with their arms raised and carrying others on stretchers. One man was holding a white flag.

The capture of Mariupol is crucial for Russia, because it will allow its troops in the south, which came out through the annexed Crimean Peninsula, to fully unite with troops in the eastern Donbass, Ukraine’s industrial center and the object of future offensive.

According to a senior U.S. defense official, the Russian military continues to move helicopters and other equipment for such efforts, and they are likely to add more ground combat units “in the coming days.” But it is unclear when Russia can launch a major offensive in the Donbass.

Moscow-backed separatists have been at war with Ukraine in the Donbas since 2014, when Russia seized Crimea. Russia recognized independence rebel regions in the Donbass.

The loss of Moscow could delay any new broad offensive.

The governor of the Odessa region Maxim Marchenko, who is across the Black Sea northwest of Sevastopol, said that the Ukrainians hit the ship with two rockets “Neptune” and inflicted “serious damage.”

Adviser to the President of Ukraine Alexei Orastovich called it an event of “colossal significance.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the blast detonated ammunition on board, without saying what caused the fire. It says that the “main missile weapons” are not damaged. In addition to cruise missiles on the warship were also air defense missiles and other guns.

Neptune is an anti-ship missile recently developed by Ukraine and based on a former Soviet design. Launchers are installed on trucks located near the coast, and, according to the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies, missiles can hit targets at a distance of up to 280 kilometers (175 miles). This would put “Moscow” in range, depending on where the fire started.

The United States has failed to confirm Ukraine’s allegations of a strike on a warship, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday. However, he called it a “big blow to Russia”.

“They had to choose between two stories: one was that it was just incompetence, and the other was that they were attacked, and neither is a good outcome,” Sullivan told the Washington Economic Club. .

It is reported that in the early days of the war, “Moscow” was a warship that called on Ukrainian soldiers stationed on Snake Island in the Black Sea to surrender in confrontation. In a widespread note, the soldier replies: “Russian warship, bark yourself.”

The AP was unable to investigate the incident on its own, but Ukraine and its supporters see it as a landmark moment of disobedience. The country recently opened a postage stamp in memory of this.

Russia invaded on February 24 and potentially lost thousands of fighters. As a result of the conflict, countless civilians died in Ukraine, and millions more were forced to flee.

It also further exacerbates prices in grocery stores and gas stations, because Ukraine and Russia are major producers of crops and energy, while leading the world economy. The head of the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that the war had helped the organization worsen economic forecasts for 143 countries.

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

Russia’s State Security Service has previously said that Ukrainian forces fired mortars at a border post in Bryansk when the refugees crossed, forcing them to flee.

Independent verification of reports failed. Earlier this month, Ukrainian security officials denied that Kyiv was behind an air strike on an oil depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, about 55 kilometers (35 miles) from the border.

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