April 2, 2023

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Ukraine says it damaged a Russian ship and is seeking to evacuate injured Mariupol fighters

Ukraine says it damaged a Russian ship and is seeking to evacuate injured Mariupol fighters

  • Ukraine says it damaged a Russian supply ship in the Black Sea
  • Relatives of Mariupol fighters beg for their rescue
  • Finland wants security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Sweden expected to follow suit in trying to join the alliance

KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine said it had damaged a Russian navy logistics ship near Snake Island, a small but strategic outpost in the Black Sea, while relatives of Ukrainian soldiers holed up in besieged steel mills in Mariupol demanded their damage. rescued.

Renewed fighting around Snake Island in recent days could become a battle for control of the western coast of the Black Sea, according to some defense officials, as Russian forces struggle to make progress in northern and eastern Ukraine.

“Thanks to the actions of our naval sailors, the support ship Vsevolod Bobrov – one of the newest of the Russian fleet – caught fire,” said Serhiy Prachuk, spokesman for the Odessa Regional Military Administration.

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Reuters could not independently verify the details. The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Satellite images provided by Maxar, a private US-based company, showed the effects of what it said were possible missile attacks on a Russian Serna-class landing ship near the island, near Ukraine’s maritime border with Romania.

The photos also showed the recent damage to buildings on the island, which was notorious for the obnoxious defiance of Ukrainian defenders early on in the invasion. Read more

Russia faced further setbacks on the battlefield as Ukraine expelled its forces from the area around Kharkiv, its second largest city, the fastest advance since the Kremlin’s forces were forced out of Kyiv and the northeast more than a month ago.

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Reuters journalists confirmed that Ukraine now controls an area stretching as far as the Seversky Donets River, about 40 kilometers east of Kharkiv.

The footage released by the Airborne Forces Command of Ukraine showed several burning military vehicles and part of the bridge looks destroyed and partially submerged in the river.

Regional authorities reported continued missile strikes around Poltava and shelling on Dergach near Kharkiv, killing two people.

In the capital, Kyiv, wives and relatives of Ukrainian fighters hiding at the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port of Mariupol marched and chanted for their rescue. Russian forces were bombing steel mills, the last stronghold of Ukrainian defenders in a city almost entirely controlled by Russia after a siege that lasted more than two months.

“I want all the defenders who are there to go home so they can live a normal life with their children and relatives,” said Maria Zimareva, whose brother works inside steel mills. “They earned it. Why can others walk the streets with their loved ones when they can’t? Why doesn’t anyone help them?”

Kyiv said it was working to rescue the soldiers, many of whom were seriously wounded.

“We have started a new round of negotiations on a roadmap for the (evacuation) operation. We will start with the seriously injured,” Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshuk told 1+1 TV.

NATO expansion

As fighting continues across the country, broader diplomatic moves have increased pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Finland’s plan to apply for NATO membership, announced Thursday, and expectations that Sweden will follow, will widen the Western military alliance that Putin has sought to block.

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Abandoning the neutrality they maintained throughout the Cold War would be one of the biggest shifts in European security in decades.

Moscow called Finland’s declaration hostile and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical” measures.

“Helsinki must be aware of the responsibility and consequences of such a move,” the foreign ministry said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Finns would “warmly welcome” and promised a “smooth and fast” accession process. Read more

The White House supported such a move.

“We will support NATO’s request from Finland and/or Sweden if they apply,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

Finland’s 1,300 km (800 mi) border will more than double the length of the border between the US-led coalition and Russia, putting NATO guards within a few hours’ drive of the northern suburbs of St Petersburg.

Putin cited potential NATO expansion as one of the main reasons for launching what he called a “special military operation” in Ukraine in February.

Thursday also saw an escalation of disputes over Russian energy supplies to Europe – which remains Moscow’s largest source of funding and Europe’s largest heat and power exporter.

Moscow said it would stop gas flowing to Germany through the main pipeline over Poland, while Kyiv said it would not reopen a pipeline it had closed this week unless it regained control of areas from pro-Russian fighters. Gas prices rose in Europe. Read more

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Lincoln Fest and Stephen Coates; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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