Russia claims to have carried out strike on Kyiv missile plant following Moskva warship sinking

The strike on a missile plant in Kyiv is an escalation after the flagship of Putin's black sea fleet suffered damage, reports Peter Smith

Russia claims it has carried out a missile strike on a factory which produces military equipment on the outskirts of Kyiv, as it pledged to ramp up missile attacks on the Ukrainian capital after admitting the flagship of its Black Sea fleet has sunk.

It is thought a workshop and an administrative building at the Vizar plant, which lies near Kyiv's international Zhuliany airport, were seriously damaged.

It is believed the factory produces the same Neptune missiles which Ukraine alleges it used to sink the Moskva.

The threat of intensified attacks on Kyiv came after Russian authorities accused Ukraine of launching airstrikes on residential buildings in Bryansk, a region that borders Ukraine, and wounding seven people. Authorities in another border region of Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling Thursday. These claims could not be independently verified.

Life in Kyiv has been gradually returning to some normalcy after Russia failed to capture the capital and withdrew its troops in northern Ukraine to focus on a concentrated assault in the country’s east. A renewed bombardment could return the city’s residents to sheltering in subway stations and the steady wail of air raid sirens.

Amid the threat of renewed attacks on Kyiv, the regional police chief said the bodies of 900 civilians have been discovered in the region following Russia's withdrawal.

Andriy Nebytov, the head of Kyiv’s regional police force, said on Friday that the bodies had been abandoned in the streets or given temporary burials. He cited police data indicating that 95% of the casualties had died from sniper fire and gunshot wounds.

The outskirts of Kyiv were badly hit during Russia's invasion but troops have since withdrawn to the east of the country. Credit: PA

Ukrainian officials have not confirmed striking targets in Russia, and the reports by Russian authorities could not be independently verified. However, Ukrainian officials claimed their forces struck a key Russian warship with missiles on Thursday. If true, the claim would represent an important victory.

The guided-missile cruiser Moskva, named for the Russian capital, sank while being towed to port after suffering heavy damage under circumstances that remained in dispute.

The Russian Defence Ministry claimed the Moskva missile-guided cruiser sank in a storm on Thursday after being gutted by fire, and that the fire caused ammunition to detonate and blow up. Russia said all 500 crew members were evacuated.

Maksym Marchenko, the Ukrainian governor of the region around the Black Sea port of Odesa, said Ukrainian forces struck the cruiser with two missiles and caused "serious damage", a claim the US has backed.

Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor for Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs, said the ship's captain died "during the explosion and fire on board".

Neither set of claims has been independently verified, but it is thought the ship has sunk.

How much of a blow was the sinking of the Moskva to the Kremlin? Global Security Rohit Kachroo explained on Thursday's News At Ten

The Moskva had the capacity to carry 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its removal reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea. The warship’s loss in an invasion already widely seen as a historic blunder also was a symbolic defeat for Moscow as its troops regroup for an offensive in eastern Ukraine after retreating from much of the north.

The UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the Moskva’s loss would likely force Moscow to change the way its naval forces operate in the Black Sea. In a social media post on Friday, the MoD said the ship, which returned to operational service last year after a major refit, “served a key role as both a command vessel and air defence node.”

As Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo notes, the Pentagon has said that four or five other Russian warships have now backed away from the Ukraine coastline- possibly as a consequence of the sinking of the cruiser.

The Moskva is the same ship Ukrainians defending Snake Island, off the south coast, told to go "f*** yourself" after Russians demanded they surrender.

Officials said the soldiers - who made headlines around the world - had been killed moments after their defiant message.

But the group was actually taken prisoner, said Ukrainian officials, who were later released from captivity as part of a prisoner exchange with Russian forces.

Russia says the crew of 500 onboard the Moskva cruiser was evacuated. Pictured here on April 10 Credit: Maxar Technologies

The Moskva cruiser is the second major Russian ship known to have suffered serious damage since Moscow invaded Ukraine, after tank carrier Orsk was hit and set on fire in the Sea of Azov in late March.

If Ukraine hit the Moskva with missiles, the cruiser likely represents the largest warship to be sunk in combat since the 1982 Falklands War, which saw a similar-sized cruiser called the ARA General Belgrano torpedoed by a British submarine, killing over 300 sailors on board.

In a late night television address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainians should be proud of having survived 50 days under attack from Russia when Moscow "gave us a maximum of five".

The 44-year-old called it “an achievement of millions of Ukrainians, of everyone who on February 24 made the most important decision of their life – to fight".

Mr Zelenskyy gave an extensive and almost poetic listing of the many ways in which Ukrainians have helped to fend off the Russian troops, including “those who showed that Russian warships can sail away, even if it’s to the bottom” of the sea, his only reference to the Moskva.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Ukrainians for the defiance in the face of Russian aggression. Credit: AP

News about the flagship overshadowed Russian claims of advances 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 heaviest fighting of the war — at a horrific cost to civilians.

Dwindling numbers of Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol are holding out against a siege that has trapped well over 100,000 civilians in desperate need of food, water and heating.

The UN has said people are being "starved to death" in the city.

Mariupol’s mayor has claimed 21,000 civilians have died in the city.

The port's capture is critical for Russia because it would allow its forces in the south, which came up through the annexed Crimean Peninsula, to fully link up with troops in the Donbas region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland and the target of the looming offensive.

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

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