Wall Street Journal
Barrage comes a day after the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet sank and as both sides prepare for fresh battles in the country’s east
Russia hit targets in Kyiv on Friday as its forces threatened to escalate attacks on Ukrainian command centers in response to alleged strikes inside Russian territory, with both sides gearing up for a new stage in the ground war in the country’s east. As Moscow stepped up pressure on Ukraine’s capital, the fate of Mariupol in the country’s southeast hung in the balance, with Russian forces pressing their campaign to take control of the strategic port city that serves as a potential link between Russia’s mainland and the Crimean Peninsula it seized from Ukraine in 2014. The latest Russian strikes on the Kyiv area come as Russian and Ukrainian forces girded themselves for what officials and military analysts say will be a new stage of the ground war, in the Donbas region in the east of Ukraine, after Moscow’s initial attempt to take Kyiv failed. The area is home to two Russian-backed regions that broke away from Ukrainian government control in 2014, the same year Moscow annexed the strategic Crimea region. Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it struck a factory near Kyiv that produces long- and medium-range missiles as well as antiship missiles. The strike came a day after Ukraine said it hit the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, with a cruise-missile attack.
A senior U.S. defense official said Friday that the ship was hit and sunk by two Ukrainian Neptune missiles, a claim also made by Ukraine. There was no independent confirmation of the use of Neptune missiles, which have thus far been under development. Russia has said the vessel sank from damage suffered from a fire that caused ammunition stores to explode. It said the source of the fire was unknown and that it sank in stormy weather as it was towed to port. The loss of the warship nonetheless represents a significant blow that could compromise the security of Russia’s entire Black Sea Fleet. During the war that began on Feb. 24, Russian ships in the Black Sea have fired cruise missiles at Ukrainian cities, targeting infrastructure, fuel depots, military bases and civilian administrative buildings. “It is a significant loss,” the U.S. official said. “It’s going to be a blow to their pride, and we would expect it will be a blow to their morale.”