Pentagon: Russian warship still on fire, can’t confirm cause

A key Russian warship in the Black Sea is on fire, though it’s unclear what caused the blaze, a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday. 

The crew of the Russian guided-missile cruiser Moskva is still trying to extinguish the flames, which appear to have caused “significant damage” to the ship, the official told reporters. 

“Our assessment is that she still appears to be battling a fire on board. But we do not know the extent of the damage, we don’t know about casualties to her crew and we cannot definitively say at this point what caused that damage,” they said. 

The official added the ship is moving east, and the U.S. assumes it is heading to the port of Sevastopol in the Crimean peninsula for repairs. 

Ukrainian forces earlier on Thursday claimed to have struck the Moskva, seriously damaging what’s known as the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. 

Maksym Marchenko, the governor of the Odesa region, said two Neptune missiles struck the ship, according to The Associated Press

Russia later acknowledged that the entire crew of the Moskva — which can carry 500 sailors — was forced to evacuate due to an overnight fire. Russia’s Defense Ministry did not mention an attack, only that ammunition on board detonated as a result of a fire, “seriously” damaging the ship. The ministry also said the cause of the fire is still “being established.” 

The Kremlin later said efforts are under way to try to tow the ship to port, while Ukraine’s military assessed the ship to be capsized and “sinking.”  

The U.S. defense official, meanwhile, said the Russian warship was about 60 to 65 nautical miles south of Odesa when it experienced an explosion. 

Other ships in the northern Black Sea have since moved further south, they added. 

The heavily damaged ship appears to be another blow to Moscow, which has struggled in its invasion of Ukraine that began Feb. 24.  

After failing to take the capital of Kyiv, Kremlin forces have retreated from much of the north and are now trying to regroup for a renewed offensive in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for more weapons from the U.S. and NATO to help force back the Russian invasion. The Biden administration responded to that call on Wednesday when it announced another $800 million in military aid to the country. 

Among the weapons included in the package are 11 Mi-17 helicopters, 18 Howitzers, hundreds of Switchblade drones, Javelin missiles and armored personnel carriers and protective equipment in the event of a chemical or biological weapons attack. 

Tags Moskva Russia Russian invasion of Ukraine Ukraine Ukraine war Volodymyr Zelensky

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