Ukraine says it has sunk two Russian Navy boats, as fresh explosions hit Russian border town

Ukraine released video footage of what it said were armed Bayraktar TB-2 drones hitting the two Raptor-class patrol boats at 4:51 a.m. Monday near Snake Island, a Ukrainian island that Russian forces captured on first day of the war on February 24. Both boats appeared to have been hit, but it was unclear whether they had sunk.

The Ukrainian army said in recent days that it had carried out several airstrikes on the strategic island, located 22 miles off the coast of Ukraine southwest of Odessa, destroying the air defense system and other heavy weapons of Russian military unit occupying it. The two boats in the area, each capable of carrying 20 Marines in addition to three crew, were likely to carry reinforcements and supplies.

The island has great symbolic significance for Ukraine because its defenders refused to surrender – according to the Ukrainian version of events that has become national legend – and radioed “Russian warship, fuck you when Russia’s Black Sea flagship, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, approached with an ultimatum on February 24.

In Poland, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said the United States and its European allies would continue to work to strengthen the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after she and a delegation of lawmakers Americans have met Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Pelosi, who has previously been to Ukraine, said the United States is grateful to Poland for opening its doors to millions of Ukrainian refugees since Russia invaded the country in late February.

“Our members discussed our countries’ continued commitment to Ukraine, particularly as Congress prepares to translate President Biden’s new request for additional security, economic and humanitarian assistance into legislation,” Ms. Pelosi said in a statement.

Moskva itself was sunk by a Ukrainian missile strike on April 14, with dozens of sailors still missing by Russian authorities. Since the start of the war, Ukraine has also sunk a Russian landing ship, the Saratov, and damaged at least one other in a missile strike on the Russian-occupied port of Berdyansk on the Sea of ​​Azov.

Leading the fight against the enemy by pressing Russian supply lines inside Russia itself appears to have become a key part of Ukraine’s efforts to repel the Russian offensive. On Monday, Russian forces continued their pressure in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, with heavy fighting north of the city of Sloviansk.

Ukrainian officials said they had carried out a series of strikes on Russian forward bases in the Izyum region north of Sloviansk in recent days, killing senior commanders, including a general. Although this claim could not be independently confirmed, drone footage released on Monday by Ukrainian volunteers working with the army showed a series of precision strikes on a large group of Russian armor south of Izyum. .

In Russia’s Belgorod region, a staging ground for Russian attacks on Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv and Donbas, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram that he woke up early on Monday to two strong explosions that shook the city.

Mr Gladkov then said that the explosions were caused by Russian planes carrying a combat mission and that the safety of the inhabitants had never been threatened.

Videos posted by Belgorod residents on social media overnight appeared to show planes dropping flares into the night sky while others featured the sound of loud explosions or sonic booms.

Incidents have occurred repeatedly in Russia in recent weeks, with explosions destroying Russian ammunition depots, fuel facilities and railway bridges in the border regions of Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk which serve as logistics bases for Russian forces. attacking Ukraine.

On Sunday, Mr Gladkov said a fire broke out at a Defense Ministry facility in the area. One person was injured and seven houses damaged in the incident, he said. Footage released by locals showed thick plumes of smoke rising high into the sky and the sound of what appeared to be secondary explosions of exploding munitions.

Russia has accused Ukraine of sporadic attacks and acts of sabotage on its territory. Ukrainian officials have adopted a policy of not commenting on events on Russian territory, with Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak recently calling explosions in Russian border regions “karma” for Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

On Sunday, Roman Starovoit, the regional governor of Russia’s Kursk region, said the partial collapse of a railway bridge in his region that day was an act of sabotage. “Law enforcement specialists will investigate further,” he said on Telegram, adding that there were no casualties.

The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately comment on the incident. Last month, Moscow warned it would hit “decision-making centers” in kyiv if attacks on Russian territory continued.

In recent days, two simultaneous fires have broken out at an oil depot and a military fuel facility in the Russian city of Bryansk, also close to the Ukrainian border. Before that, fuel depots exploded in Belgorod, following what appeared to be a Ukrainian helicopter raid.

For the past few weeks, Kursk, Belgorod and other regions close to Ukraine have been under the second highest level of terrorist alert, allowing military and police checkpoints to be established throughout the region and intensify patrols by security personnel, among other security measures.

The United States, other NATO members and other Western countries have stepped up their support for Ukraine by providing heavy weapons, training and intelligence. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Moscow could retaliate.

Some Western officials interpreted Russia’s decision to halt natural gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria last week as the biggest such retaliation yet and warned that more countries that depend on Russian energy supplies could soon be targeted.

European Union energy ministers are meeting on Monday to discuss the fallout from the decision. EU members are working to reduce their dependence on Russian gas imports by concluding new contracts with alternative suppliers and taking steps to reduce gas consumption at home.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said late on Sunday that her country would support an EU ban on the import of Russian oil, confirming reports last week of Germany’s change of heart.

New oil supply contracts that have significantly reduced Germany’s dependence on Russian oil meant the country was now ready to resist such an embargo, Ms Baerbock told public broadcaster ARD on Sunday evening .

Only 12% of Germany’s oil imports currently come from Russia, compared to 35% before the war, according to the government’s latest assessment. Germany, the world’s largest importer of Russian gas, gets about a third of its gas imports from Russia, up from 55% before the war, but the government has said it will remain dependent on Russian imports until 2024.

Later Monday, Ukrainian authorities were due to welcome civilians evacuated over the weekend from the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, the port city on the Sea of ​​Azov besieged by Russian forces since the start of the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted on Sunday that 100 people who had taken refuge in an underground complex under the destroyed Azovstal steel plant were coming out under United Nations supervision and would be taken to the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhya from the country. He said more civilians would be evacuated.

The Russian Defense Ministry said later on Sunday that 80 civilians had been “rescued from the territory” through a humanitarian corridor during a temporary ceasefire. The civilians were taken to the village of Bezimenne in Russia’s Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine for accommodation, food and medical assistance, the ministry said. Evacuees who wanted to go to areas controlled by the Kyiv government were handed over to representatives of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Defense Ministry said.

Vladimir Legoyda, spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, wrote on his Telegram channel that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Church, was involved in organizing the exit of civilians.

Mr Legoyda said the safe exit of civilians was “a very important result of the negotiations undertaken with the participation of international organisations”.

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