U.S. to train Ukrainian troops, confirms attack sank Russian warship

Russia’s premier warship in the Black Sea sustained severe damage and sank on its way back to port early Thursday, a major symbolic blow to Moscow as the invasion of Ukraine entered its eighth week and both sides prepare for a potentially devastating battle over the eastern Donbas region.

The cause of the explosion at the missile cruiser Moskva is still unclear. Russia claims that a fire caused the explosion and forced crew members to flee. The Ukrainian government claimed that they hit the Russian ship with a missile. A senior U.S. official said to The Washington Post that the vessel was destroyed by a fire that detonated ammunition onboard. However, he did not specify the weapon used.

Earlier in the day, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan called the damage to the ship a setback for Russia regardless of how it was disabled. He said that it could have been “just incompetence”

or they were attacked. “Neither is a particularly good outcome for them.”

The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet sank after an attack from Ukrainian forces triggered a “significant explosion,” U.S. officials said on April 14. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Reuters)

The war in Ukraine, which President Biden this week described as genocide, has killed thousands of civilians, forced more than 4.7 million Ukrainians to flee the country and reordered the geopolitical landscape in Europe.

Smaller European nations that also feel threatened by Russia have rushed weapons to Ukraine, while Finland and Sweden signaled Wednesday that they would consider joining NATO, ending their nonaligned status. On Thursday, Russia warned the two countries that if they join the alliance, Moscow will strengthen its military forces in the Baltic Sea, including though the deployment of nuclear weapons. The Biden administration has expanded the weapons that it will supply to Ukraine’s military. This is expected to lead to large-scale clashes on the Donbas regions open fields. An additional $800 million in security assistance will for the first time include anti-personnel mines, long-range artillery, armored vehicles and radar defense equipment. A senior U.S. defense officer said that the U.S. top commander in Europe, along with his staff, are creating training for Ukrainian troops. The soldiers will learn about new weapons and techniques.

The training will focus on using 155mm howitzer cannons, counter-artillery radar and Sentinel air defense radars, and will last a few days each, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon.

Russia this week sent a formal diplomatic note to the United States warning that U.S. and NATO shipments of the “most sensitive” weapons systems to Ukraine was “adding fuel” to the conflict there and could bring “unpredictable consequences.”

A copy of the diplomatic demarche was reviewed by The Washington Post. The State Department did not respond to requests for comment. Requests for comments were not answered by the Russian Embassy.

Russia claimed that the most sensitive items were the “multiple launch missile systems,” even though the United States and NATO allies have not been accused of supplying those weapons to Ukraine. Russia accused the allies of violating “rigorous principles” governing arms transfers to conflict zones, and of being oblivious to “the threat of high-precision weapons falling into the hands of radical nationalists, extremists and bandit forces in Ukraine.”

The document accused NATO of trying to pressure Ukraine to “abandon” sputtering and so far unsuccessful negotiations with Russia, “in order to continue the bloodshed.” Washington, it said, was pressuring other countries to stop any military and technical cooperation with Russia, and was pressuring those with Soviet-era weapons to transfer them to Ukraine. The note stated that the United States and all its allies should stop irresponsible militarization in Ukraine. This could have unintended consequences for international and regional security.

Sullivan stated that the weapons headed for Ukraine were “everything that we could manage in a reasonable period of time” and that they are not “operating inside Ukraine’s territory” — a red line which could prompt a reaction from Moscow. He also stressed the importance of having “resilient, diverse and sustainable” options to keep delivering military assistance to the country.

Biden told reporters his administration is also considering whether to send a senior U.S. government official to Ukraine in a gesture of solidarity, following visits this week by top European leaders. The president stated, “We are making that decision now.”

The death toll from an April 8 Russian airstrike on a train station in Kramatorsk rose to 59 after two children injured in the attack died, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Thursday. The ministry stated that seven of the victims were children.

” A bloody toy for children will be sent to [Ukraine’s national police] by the U.N. to prove the barbaric crime,” said the ministry in a tweet. It also included an image of a toy horse that was apparently abandoned at the scene. A new turning point may be coming in the conflict in Mariupol, a port city under siege. The Russian Defense Ministry said 134 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered there overnight. A day earlier, the ministry asserted that Mariupol was “completely liberated” from the Azov Battalion — a Ukrainian paramilitary unit with a history of far-right nationalism — and said the remaining Ukrainian forces in the city were trapped.

A local Ukrainian official stated Thursday that fighting continues between Russian and Ukrainian forces, especially near the harbour. The city’s mayor, Vadym Boychenko, recently estimated that more than 10,000 civilians have died in the Russian siege.

In its daily assessment for April 13, the Institute for the Study of War reported that Russian forces could “capture Mariupol in the coming week,” adding that the city’s defenders wouldn’t be able to hold out indefinitely.

Russian forces, it reported, continued to take ground in the city — including driving Ukrainian troops to abandon a metal plant in the north, “further constricting the two remaining pockets of Ukrainian defenders.”

Ukrainian officials have described Mariupol as a crucial battlefield. “Mariupol is the heart of this war today,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Associated Press on Sunday. It beats. We fight. If it stops beating, we will have weaker positions.”

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who recently held meetings just days apart with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Zelensky, told Germany’s DPA news agency that the two leaders are entrenched in a “wartime state of mind.”

“Both sides are preparing for a very intense and, from a humane perspective, devastating battle” in the Donbas region, he said. Experts believe that the sinking of Moskva’s warship will provide a significant morale boost to Ukrainian forces. The Russian defense ministry stated late Thursday that the Moskva was sinking as it was being town to port. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson said that the effect of the sinking of the ship was unclear on the larger war effort. Kirby stated that the naval part of the war was limited to just two items: one, the cruise missile strikes in Ukraine, and two, the replenishment of and resupply for their efforts south.

The Pentagon also disclosed Thursday for the first time that a small group of Ukrainian soldiers who had been in the United States for training when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 received coaching on armed, unmanned Switchblade aircraft, as well as on coastal defense surface drones that Biden just approved Wednesday. According to a Pentagon official, those troops are now in Ukraine .

It is evident that certain of the previously self-imposed limits on U.S. Military Aid to Ukraine have changed according to Elias Yousif, an analyst at Washington’s Stimson Centre. However, Yousif stated that there are still some actions the Biden administration considers too dangerous in order to provoke conflict with Russia. These include facilitating fighter jet transfers to Ukraine. Yousif stated that the administration was “walking on a tightrope” and doesn’t understand how much tension it must work with.

During a news conference on April 13 in Stockholm, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said she expects a quick decision regarding NATO membership. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: The Washington Post)

Meanwhile, Finland and Sweden are reconsidering their status as militarily nonaligned nations in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leading to escalated warnings from Russia.

Dmitry Medvedev (an ally to Putin and deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council) said that NATO expansion would cause Moscow to increase its air, land, and naval force to balance the country’s military capabilities.

” If Sweden and Finland join NATO the total length of their land borders with Russia will exceed double. These boundaries must be reinforced,” he said on Telegram.

“There cannot be any talk about a nuclear-free Baltic.” Medvedev stated.

Russia accused Ukraine of attacking residential buildings near its border. Seven people were also injured.

Two Ukrainian combat aircraft entered Russian airspace, and “at least six strikes,” in Klimovo village. This was according to the Russian Investigative Committee. Although six homes were reported to have been damaged, the federal agency provided no other information. The accusations were not immediately addressed by the Ukrainian authorities.

Russia accuses Ukraine of numerous strikes against its territory, since the start of war. Moscow claimed that Ukraine had attacked Belgorod’s fuel depot, a border area, in April. At the time, Ukrainian officials refused to confirm or deny that the attack occurred.

Rauhala reported from Brussels. Annabelle Timsit in London and Adela Suliman, Riga, Latvia; Mary Ilyushina, Riga; Annabelle Chapman, Warsaw; Amanda Coletta, Toronto; John Hudson, Christine Armario and Tyler Pager in Washington all contributed to this report.

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