Vladimir Putin could trigger an “immediate escalation” of his war in Ukraine if his prized warship Mosvka sank in an alleged missile attack.
Experts have warned that Vladimir Putin could trigger an “immediate escalation” of his war in Ukraine after his warship Mosvka was apparently attacked by a Ukrainian missile.
Ukrainian state media reported Thursday that the Russian Black Sea command ship, which took part in the naval attack on Ukraine, was “severely damaged” by the explosion, as Moscow threatened to strike command centers in Kyiv.
Kyiv claims that the ship “began to sink” and that hundreds of Moskva’s 510 crew members may have died.
It was not clear what exactly caused the explosion on the Moskva missile cruiser or the extent of the damage, with both sides giving conflicting reports.
The Russian Defense Ministry was quoted as saying that the damage was caused by an explosion of ammunition “as a result of a fire,” adding that the cause of the fire was being investigated.
But the spokesman for the Odessa Military Administration, Sergey Brachuk, said on Telegram that “according to the available data, the cause of” serious damage “was the domestic cruise missiles from Neptune.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said the crew had been evacuated, but anti-Russian politician Ilya Ponomarev said only 50 – less than 10 percent – of the crew had been rescued so far.
The governor of Odessa also said that Ukrainian forces had hit the ship and sank it with missile strikes, but Oleksiy Aristovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said “we don’t understand what happened.”
“If Ukraine really flooded Mosfka, expect an immediate escalation from Moscow,” Russian analyst Clint Ehrlich wrote on Twitter.
“There will be a political imperative for the Kremlin to push this backlash out of the headlines with positive news. We may see large-scale strategic bombing, something that Russia has so far stopped.”
Putin can unleash the bombers
Despite the horrific scenes of “enormous” devastation, they cautioned that the Russian leader’s behavior thus far did not indicate that his aim was to maximize civilian harm.
“We need to understand Russia’s actual behavior,” a retired Air Force officer, now an analyst for a military contractor advising the Pentagon, told the publication.
“If we only convince ourselves that Russia is bombing indiscriminately, or [that] They fail to do more damage because their personnel are not up to the task or because they are technically incompetent, we just don’t see the real conflict.”
A senior Defense Intelligence Agency analyst also argued that much of the destruction seen in cities across Ukraine was the result of a contested ground war involving peer adversaries.
“Kyiv’s heart was hardly touched,” he said. NEWSWEEK. Almost all long-range strikes were aimed at military targets.
The analyst at Doha International Airport added: “I know that it is difficult … to comprehend that the massacres and destruction could be much worse than it is now. But this is what the facts show. This suggests to me, at least, that Putin is not deliberately attacking civilians, perhaps He understands that he needs to limit the damage in order to leave room for negotiations.”
Experts said that the Russian Air Force did not conduct any large-scale systematic bombing campaign, as air and missile strikes were almost exclusively in support of ground forces.
“Think of the Russian Air Force as flying artillery,” said the retired Air Force officer. “It is not an independent arm. It has not conducted any strategic air campaign as American observers have been in the 30 years of American conflict.”
Russia says major ‘severely damaged’
The city of Mariupol and off the coast of Odessa is besieged by the Moscow Fleet on the Black Sea, and its ships have been used to bombard coastal cities.
Moskva gained notoriety early in the war when the Ukrainian border forces defending the strategic Snake Island called for a surrender, but were defiantly rebuffed.
It was previously deployed in the Syrian conflict where it served as naval protection for the Russian forces’ Hmeimim air base.
The Russian Defense Ministry told state media that the crew had been evacuated, but that “the ship was badly damaged.”
Having initially expected to quickly overpower its neighbour, Russia has faced fierce resistance and so far reprisals in its own territory — prompting Moscow on Wednesday to threaten to strike command centers in Kyiv if Ukraine continues to launch attacks on Russian soil.
The warning raised a state of anxiety in the city of Kyiv, which was witnessing some calm after the withdrawal of Russian forces from the region after their failure to secure the capital.
It was believed that Moscow was refocusing its war objectives on the south and east of the country, as the Ukrainian authorities warned of new bloody clashes coming in the eastern Donbass region.
As the war enters its seventh week, US President Joe Biden announced an $800 million ($1 billion) military aid package for Ukraine that includes helicopters and armored personnel carriers.
The package includes armored personnel carriers and helicopters, as well as some equipment that Washington had previously refused to send to Ukraine for fear of escalating the conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.
The Pentagon said it was looking to provide Ukraine with weapons that would “give it a little bit more range and distance,” as the country prepares for an escalation of violence.
No electricity, no water
More than 40,000 people have left the country in the past 24 hours in a desperate attempt to flee the expected attack, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
This brings the number of people displaced abroad to 4.6 million since the conflict began. The expected Russian offensive is an apparent attempt to create an unbroken passage from occupied Crimea to the Donbass, where Russian-backed separatists control the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Part of this batch includes the capture of the main southern port of Mariupol, which Ukrainian forces have struggled to control and where President Zelensky estimates “tens of thousands” of civilians have been killed.
More than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered in the city, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday, as air strikes targeted the huge Azovstal iron and steel plants.
Also in the crossfire is Severodonetsk – the last eastern city still under the control of Ukrainian forces – where residents suffered heavy bombardment as they vowed not to flee.
About 400 civilians have been buried there since the war began, according to the Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region Sergey Gaidai, with locals now waiting for the Russian attack.
“There is no electricity, no water,” Maria, who lives with her husband and mother-in-law, told AFP. “But I’d rather stay here, at home. If we leave, where are we going?” “The explosions?” Maria said with the explosions resounding from afar.
‘Our citizens were killed’
In areas from which Russian forces have withdrawn, officials and residents are working to determine the extent of the destruction they have left behind.
The Hague-based International Criminal Court, which deals with rights abuses, sent investigators to Ukraine and told reporters that the country had become a “crime scene”.
ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said on a visit to Bucha, a town that has now become synonymous with dozens of alleged atrocities committed by Russian forces.
Bucha officials say more than 400 people have been found dead there, with 25 rapes reported.
Regional prosecutor Andy Tkach said up to 400 people were missing in the neighboring Gostomel region.
AFP saw dozens of body bags filling a refrigerated trailer truck while two others waited for more bodies.
“Our compatriots are being killed and we must bury everyone in the right way,” said Igor Karpshin, carrying the truck.
Ukrainian authorities say Russian forces continue to kill civilians in the areas they still occupy.
Ukrainian prosecutors on Wednesday accused soldiers of shooting six men and one woman in a home in the occupied southern village of Pravdin the day before.
Local authorities said four more civilians were killed in Russian strikes on the second city of Kharkiv on Wednesday.
These and other alleged atrocities led Biden to accuse President Vladimir Putin of genocide — a claim the Kremlin dismissed as “unacceptable.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backed Biden but France and Germany refused to follow suit, infuriating Zelensky, who denounced French leader Emmanuel Macron’s position as “too painful for us”.