The Russian defence ministry has said that one sailor has died and 27 are missing following the sinking of the Moskva cruiser ship on April 14.
In a statement, the ministry denied that an attack had taken place on the ship despite Kyiv’s claim to have destroyed the cruiser in a missile attack. Russia previously said a fire had broken out after ammunition detonated, without offering any further details.
The loss of the guided missile cruiser — the flagship of Russia’s Black Fleet — was a humiliating setback for Moscow.
Moscow said that 396 other servicemen on the ship had been rescued by authorities.
“Attempts by the crew to extinguish the fire were not successful,” RIA quoted the defence ministry as saying.
The ministry’s statement on Friday contradicted its earlier claim to have rescued all members of the crew on the ship, which was presumed by media to be around 500 people.
Elsewhere, the Kremlin has thrown over 100,000 troops and mercenaries from Syria and Libya into the fight in Ukraine and is deploying more forces in the country every day, said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.
“We have a difficult situation, but our army is defending our state,” he said.
Russian forces continued to pummel an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters holed up inside Mariupol’s sprawling Azovstal plant, the last known pocket of resistance inside the strategic southern port city, the mayor’s office reported..
“Every day they drop several bombs on Azovstal,” said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor. “Fighting, shelling, bombing do not stop.”
Repeated attempts to evacuate civilians from the city have failed because of what the Ukrainians said was continued Russian shelling.
Meanwhile, a Russian general on Friday claimed that his country wanted to take control of southern Ukraine.
Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, was quoted by Russian state news agencies as saying full control over southern Ukraine would give it access to a breakaway, Russian-occupied part of Moldova in the west.
Responding to his comments, Ukraine’s defence ministry said Russia had “acknowledged that the goal of the ‘second phase’ of the war is not victory over the mythical Nazis, but simply the occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine. Imperialism as it is.”