KYIV/LVIV, Ukraine—Russia said the crew of its Moskva warship were evacuated on Thursday after an explosion of ammunition aboard that Ukraine said was caused by a missile strike.
Russia’s defense ministry said the fire on the vessel, its Black Sea fleet flagship, had been contained but left the ship badly damaged. It did not acknowledge the Soviet-era missile cruiser, which had more than 500 sailors aboard, had been attacked and said the cause of the fire was under investigation.
Ukraine’s southern military command said it hit the warship with a Ukrainian-made Neptune anti-ship missile and that it had started to sink.
Reuters was unable to verify any of the various statements.
The United States said it did not have enough information to determine whether the ship was hit by a missile.
“We don’t have the capacity at this point to independently verify that but certainly, the way this unfolded, it’s a big blow to Russia,” said national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
Russian forces have pulled back from some northern parts of Ukraine. Ukraine and its Western allies say Moscow is redeploying for a new offensive.
“Russian forces are increasing their activities on the southern and eastern fronts, attempting to avenge their defeats,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a Wednesday night video address.
Russian aviation destroyed seven military facilities in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, including an artillery missile depot, Interfax quoted the Russian defense ministry as saying.
Russia’s navy has fired cruise missiles into Ukraine and its Black Sea activities are crucial to supporting land operations in the south of the country, where it is battling to seize full control of the port of Mariupol after weeks of bombardment.
Russian media said the Moskva was armed with 16 anti-ship cruise missiles with a range of at least 700 kilometers (440 miles).
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said Russia was massing troops not only along the Russia-Ukraine border, but also in Belarus and Moldova’s breakaway Transdniestria region. Moldova separately accused Russia’s army of trying to recruit Moldovans. Moscow’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Authorities in Transdniestria, bordering southern Ukraine, denied Russia was preparing forces there to threaten Ukraine.
The Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhia regions in the country’s east were being hit by missile strikes, Malyar said.
Kharkiv’s governor said shelling killed four civilians.
Russian officials said Ukrainian helicopters had hit residential buildings and injured seven people in the Bryansk region, the latest of a series of cross-border attacks that Moscow has said may trigger a retaliatory attack on Kyiv.
The governor of the Belgorod region said a village there was also attacked, but that no one was wounded. Neither side’s statements could be independently verified and Ukraine’s military did not respond to requests for comment.
Russia said on Wednesday more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines from one of the units still holding out in the shattered city of Mariupol had surrendered. Ukrainian officials did not comment.
Ukraine says tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in Mariupol.
Moscow has blamed Ukraine for civilian deaths and accused Kyiv of denigrating Russian armed forces.
The Kremlin says its “special military operation” seeks to demilitarize and “liberate” Ukraine from nationalist extremists.
Andriy Nyebytov, head of the Kyiv region police, said more than 800 bodies had been found in three districts which had been occupied by Russian forces. His statements could not immediately be verified.
Russia has denied attacking civilians and said some reports have been staged for propaganda purposes.