– “Moskva”, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, “severely damaged.”

In Washington, US President Joe Biden promised his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky a massive new military aid worth $800 million, including heavy equipment that the United States had so far been reluctant to deliver to Kyiv for fear of exacerbating tensions with Moscow. They are parties to the war.

This came as Russia threatened to strike the command centers in Kyiv, accusing Ukraine of launching attacks on its territory.

As the Russian military prepares to seize the strategic port of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov and expand its offensive into southern and eastern Ukraine, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva has suffered “significant damage,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry. He was quoted by state agencies RIA Novosti and TASS.

“Due to a fire, ammunition on board exploded” and the entire crew was evacuated, the ministry said, adding that an investigation is underway to determine the source of this fire. For its part, the Ukrainian authorities claimed that Moskva was bombed by missiles.

The Ukrainian governor of the Odessa region (south) Maxim Marchenko said that “Neptune missiles protecting the Black Sea caused serious damage to this Russian ship.”

“A surprise came to the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet,” the adviser to the Ukrainian president, Oleksiy Aristovich, said on YouTube. “It’s burning badly. Now. With such a raging sea, it’s impossible to know when they will be able to receive help,” he said, stressing that “510 crew members” were on board. According to conflict monitors, there could have been a sinking.

Moskva has been in operation since the Soviet era in 1983 and has been involved in the Russian intervention in Syria since 2015.

In the early days of the conquest of Ukraine, he participated in the attack on Serpent Island, near the Romanian border, in which 19 Ukrainian sailors were captured for the exchange of Russian prisoners.

Huge military aid

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

Recently, the White House appeared to have abandoned the distinction between the delivery of “defensive” equipment, which it permitted, and “offensive” equipment, which it refused to provide. This massive new military aid was promised as Russia threatened to strike Kyiv again.

“We are witnessing sabotage attempts and strikes by Ukrainian forces on targets on the territory of the Russian Federation,” said Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry.

He warned that “if such events continue, the Russian army will carry out strikes on decision-making centers, including in Kyiv, which the Russian army has refrained from doing so far.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Konashenkov also announced that the Mariupol commercial port area had been completely occupied. Shortly before that, Russia announced the surrender of more than a thousand Ukrainian soldiers in this strategic port city that its forces have besieged and bombed for more than 40 days.

La prise de Marioupol serait une victoire importante pour les Russes car elle leur permettrait de consolider leurs gains territoriaux côtiers le long de la mer d’Azov en reliant la région du Donbass, en partie contrôlée par, a leursà la partisans in 2014.

While some experts see its downfall as inevitable, Ukrainian soldiers continue to resist, and the fighting is now concentrated in this city’s gigantic industrial zone, the vast Azovstal mineral complex. This labyrinth, turned into a stronghold by Ukrainian soldiers who took refuge in kilometers of underground passages, promises a fierce battle.

Since the beginning of the week, there have been rumors, not yet confirmed, of the use of chemical weapons by the Russians in Mariupol. For its part, Moscow claims that the “danger of chemical terrorism” comes from the Ukrainians.

The bombing also continued in the eastern part of Ukraine, killing seven people in the past 24 hours in Kharkiv.

Kyiv called on the residents of these regions to flee as quickly as possible for fear of an imminent major Russian offensive to take full control of Donbass, which Ukrainian forces have shared with their pro-Russian separatist enemies since 2014.

Overwhelmed by fierce Ukrainian resistance, analysts say, Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to win a victory in Donbass ahead of the May 9 military parade on Red Square marking the Soviet victory over the Nazis in 1945.

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