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May 27, 2022 12:31 pm

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Ukraine war: Putin BANS Boris from Russia


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Deranged despot Vladimir Putin has banned Boris Johnson from entering Russia as he lashes out at Britain over his failing war in Ukraine. 

Russian Tass news agency reported that the Kremlin has slapped sanctions on a dozen other British government members and politicians for allegedly ‘whipping up anti-Russian hysteria’ and ‘shamelessly inciting the Kiev neo-Nazi regime’. 

Moscow specifically accused Britain of ‘deliberately aggravating the situation surrounding Ukraine, pumping the Kyiv regime with lethal weapons and coordinating similar efforts on the behalf of NATO’ and threatened to expand its sanctions list ‘soon’. 

In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry warned: ‘This step was taken as a response to London’s unbridled information and political campaign aimed at isolating Russia internationally, creating conditions for restricting our country and strangling the domestic economy.

List of UK politicians blacklisted by Russia in Putin’s tit-for-tat sanctions

In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry announced the following UK politicians and officials will be banned from entering Russia:

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson;  
  • Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab;  
  • Foreign Secretary Liz Truss; 
  • Defence Secretary Ben Wallace; 
  • Transport Secretary Grant Shapps; 
  • Home Secretary Priti Patel; 
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak; 
  • Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng;  
  • Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries; 
  • Armed Forces Minister James Heappey;    
  • Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon;  
  • Attorney-General Suella Braverman;  
  • Former Prime Minister Theresa May.  

‘In the near future, this list will be expanded to include British politicians and parliamentarians who contribute to whipping up anti-Russian hysteria, pushing the “collective West” to use the language of threats in dialogue with Moscow, and shamelessly inciting the Kiev neo-Nazi regime.’

Moscow’s entry blacklist includes UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, former Prime Minister Theresa May and even the nationalist First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon.

London has been part of an international effort to punish Moscow with asset freezes, travel bans and economic sanctions, since Putin moved troops into Ukraine on February 24.

Mr Johnson has also accused Russia of committing war crimes in Bucha and Irpin, and has insisted that ‘Putin must fail’ – a mantra he repeated yet again this week in his apology to the British public after being fined by Scotland Yard for breaking Covid lockdown laws.

At a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the PM said: ‘What Putin has done in places like Bucha and Irpin is war crimes that have permanently polluted his reputation and the reputation of his government.’

And President Zelensky has hailed Mr Johnson as the ‘leader’ of the ‘anti-war coalition’ – a sentiment which is likely to have angered Putin and his cronies.  

The Kremlin last month effectively branded Mr Johnson Russia’s public enemy No1 over his role in galvanising Western nations against punishing Putin’s regime for launching its illegal and barbaric war against the former Soviet republic. 

The Russian tyrant’s notorious spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who has himself been sanctioned by the UK, singled out the PM as the ‘most active’ opponent of his brutal war, warning: ‘As for Mr Johnson, we see him as the most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian. It will lead to a foreign policy dead end.’

The PM acknowledged he was ‘deeply hostile’ to Putin’s war, but insisted he was ‘not remotely anti-Russian’.

Speaking at an emergency NATO summit in Brussels, he likened Putin’s tactics to those of the Nazis, saying: ‘What Vladimir Putin is doing, the way he’s leading Russia at the moment, is utterly catastrophic – his invasion of Ukraine is inhuman and barbaric.

‘And the conduct of that invasion is now moving into the type of behaviour that we haven’t seen in the continent of Europe for 80 years, and it’s horrific. 

‘So you can be sympathetic towards ordinary Russians, who are being so badly led, but you can be deeply hostile to the decisions of Vladimir Putin.’

It comes as Russia accused the US and NATO of shipping the ‘most sensitive’ weapons including long range ‘multiple launch rockets systems’ to Ukraine, adding that Western involvement was ‘adding fuel’ to the conflict and could bring ‘unpredictable consequences’.

Boris Johnson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, April 9, 2022

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Boris Johnson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, April 9, 2022

Putin chairs a video conference call on the situation in the oil and gas industries, from the official residence at Novo-Ogaryovo, April 14, 2022

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Putin chairs a video conference call on the situation in the oil and gas industries, from the official residence at Novo-Ogaryovo, April 14, 2022

A man stands on a damaged bridge in Kyiv area, Ukraine, Saturday April 16, 2022

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A man stands on a damaged bridge in Kyiv area, Ukraine, Saturday April 16, 2022

Smoke is seen rising over Darnytskyi District of Kyiv, Ukraine on April 16, 2022

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Smoke is seen rising over Darnytskyi District of Kyiv, Ukraine on April 16, 2022

Handout photo issued by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office of Mr Johnson meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday April 9, 2022

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Handout photo issued by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office of Mr Johnson meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday April 9, 2022 

A handout photo made available via the official Telegram channel of the President of Ukraine shows President Zelensky and Mr Johnson sitting for a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 9, 2022

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A handout photo made available via the official Telegram channel of the President of Ukraine shows President Zelensky and Mr Johnson sitting for a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 9, 2022 

PM makes surprise visit to meet Zelensky in Ukraine capital of Kyiv

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SAS troops are now training Ukrainians in how to use British-supplied anti-tank missiles after Russia warned that Western involvement means World War Three has already started 

A Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces member holds an NLAW anti-tank weapon, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022

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A Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces member holds an NLAW anti-tank weapon, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022

British SAS troops have been training Ukrainian soldiers in Kyiv in how to use British-supplied NLAW anti-tank missile launchers, it has been reported.

The training marks the first time British forces have been instructing their Ukrainian counterparts since Russia’s Vladimir Putin launched his invasion on February 24.

Two officers from separate battalions stationed both in and around the country’s capital told The Times that British Special Forces had trained their troops on two occasions over the last fortnight.

British military trainers have had a presence in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, but were withdrawn in February as the likelihood of Putin ordering an all-out invasion of Ukraine increased.

Reports of the British training came after Russian TV warned that Western involvement in the war – such as supplying weapons to Ukraine and training its military – meant that World War Three had already begun.

A Ukrainian serviceman fires an NLAW anti-tank weapon during an exercise in the Joint Forces Operation, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, on Feb. 15, 202

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A Ukrainian serviceman fires an NLAW anti-tank weapon during an exercise in the Joint Forces Operation, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, on Feb. 15, 202

A two-page diplomatic note or démarche, dated Tuesday, was sent to the State Department by the Russian Embassy in Washington.

It was titled: ‘On Russia’s concerns in the context of massive supplies of weapons and military equipment to the Kyiv regime,’ according to the Washington Post which obtained a copy of the note in Russian.

It accused the US and NATO allies of trying to force Ukraine to ‘abandon’ negotiations with Russia ‘in order to continue the bloodshed,’ while pressuring other countries to end military and technical cooperation with Moscow.

‘We call on the United States and its allies to stop the irresponsible militarization of Ukraine, which implies unpredictable consequences for regional and international security,’ the note said.

And among the weapons Russia described as ‘most sensitive’ were ‘multiple launch rocket systems’ – although the US and NATO have not said they are sending such items to Ukraine.

That amounted to violation of ‘rigorous principles’ governing transfer of weapons to conflict zones and of ignoring ‘the threat of high-precision weapons falling into the hands of radical nationalists, extremists and bandit forces in Ukraine.’

Russia has repeatedly tried to claim that is fighting to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine, claims that do not stand up to scrutiny.

Instead a senior administration official said the note was an admission that the US strategy was working.

‘What the Russians are telling us privately is precisely what we’ve been telling the world publicly – that the massive amount of assistance that we’ve been providing our Ukrainian partners is proving extraordinarily effective,’ said the official.

The latest tranche of US security support was announced this week. The $800million package takes the total to $3.2billion since the invasion began at the end of February, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

On Wednesday, President Biden said: ‘This new package of assistance will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine.

‘These new capabilities include artillery systems, artillery rounds, and armored personnel carriers.’

Meanwhile, British SAS troops have been training Ukrainian soldiers in Kyiv in how to use British-supplied NLAW anti-tank missile launchers, it has been reported.

The training marks the first time British forces have been instructing their Ukrainian counterparts since Putin launched his invasion on February 24.

Two officers from separate battalions stationed both in and around the country’s capital told The Times that British Special Forces had trained their troops on two occasions over the last fortnight.

British military trainers have had a presence in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, but were withdrawn in February as the likelihood of Putin ordering an all-out invasion of Ukraine increased.

Reports of the British training came after Russian TV warned that Western involvement in the war – such as supplying weapons to Ukraine and training its military – meant that World War Three had already begun.

The newspaper said it had spoken to two Ukrainian commanders – Captain Yuriy Myronenko and a Kyiv special forces commander who goes by the nickname ‘Skiff’.

Myronenko said new and returning recruits in his battalion, stationed in Obolon – a suburb in the northern outskirts of Kyiv that experienced heavy fighting in the early days of the invasion – were trained by British SAS to use NLAWs two weeks ago.

Since February, the United Kingdom has delivered more than 3,600 Next generation Light Anti-tank Weapons (NLAWs) to Ukraine, with Kyiv requesting more following reports that they had proven highly effective against Russian armour.

The launchers are relatively easy to use, and give ground troops a modern, light-weight counter to Russia’s vast numbers of slow-moving – and often dated – tanks.

Skiff, meanwhile, told The Times that Ukraine’s 112th battalion – to which his unit was attached at the time – had also been given training by British troops last week.

People stand beside damaged buildings at the Vizar company military-industrial complex, after the site was hit by overnight Russian strikes, in the town of Vyshneve, southwestern suburbs of Kyiv, April 15, 2022

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People stand beside damaged buildings at the Vizar company military-industrial complex, after the site was hit by overnight Russian strikes, in the town of Vyshneve, southwestern suburbs of Kyiv, April 15, 2022

A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday, March 12, 2022

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A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday, March 12, 2022

A serviceman stands at a building damaged during fighting in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 13, 2022

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A serviceman stands at a building damaged during fighting in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 13, 2022 

There are fears that Russia's sunken Moskva cruiser could have been carrying nuclear warheads

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There are fears that Russia’s sunken Moskva cruiser could have been carrying nuclear warheads

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls for ban on Russian oil

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Zelensky says the whole WORLD should be worried about Putin using nuclear weapons and has urged Biden to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Friday Russia could use tactical nuclear weapons

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Friday Russia could use tactical nuclear weapons

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is warning that Russia could use tactical nuclear weapons during its invasion of Ukraine – and cautioned that it was a matter grave concern for the entire world.

‘Not only me – I think all of the world, all of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth,’ Zelensky said, speaking in English.

‘We should think not be afraid, not be afraid but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think,’ he said.

Zelensky was responding to a question by CNN’s Jake Tapper about CIA Director William Burns warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin might use a tactical nuclear tactical weapon as a desperate act amid military setbacks in its invasion, which has continued for 50 days.

He mentioned nuclear weapons as well as chemical weapons as a potential threat.

‘Chemical weapons, they should do it, they could do it, for them the life of the people [means] nothing. That’s why,’ Zelensky said, speaking in sometimes imprecise English.

His dire comments in the interview come as it was reported Zelensky personally asked President Joe Biden to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism – a move with substantial implications for trade and sanctions.

His senior commander – nicknamed bear – confirmed Skiff’s report to the newspaper. ‘They were good guys, the Brits,’ he was quoted as saying. ‘They have invited us to visit them when the war is over’.

Myronenko said that the training was vital due to the huge numbers of recruits that have signed up to the country’s resistance effort since the war broke out, meaning many were not trained on how to use the vital missile launchers before Britain pulled its troops out of the country.

He said that without the British trainers, soldiers around the country who did not receive the training had to go on YouTube to learn how to use the NLAWs – which he said take around five minutes to learn how to use.

‘After that we had good training,’ he told publication. ‘British officers were here two weeks ago in our unit and they trained us really good. And because we have had successes, we have self-confidence now.’

Britain’s Ministry of Defence told The Times it would not comment on the reports on account of a long-standing convention that means it does not comment on the activities of the country’s special forces.

It comes as Moscow threatened to mount renewed missile attacks on Kyiv, where authorities said the bodies of more than 900 civilians were found outside the capital.

Russian forces continued preparations for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine, and fighting also went on in the pummelled southern port city of Mariupol, where locals reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies.

In the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, the shelling of a residential area killed seven people, including a seven-month-old child, and wounded 34, according to regional governor Oleh Sinehubov.

Early on Saturday, Kyiv’s eastern district of Darnytskie was struck, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. He said rescuers and paramedics were on the scene, and warned residents who have fled the capital not to return for their own safety.

Around Kyiv, Andriy Nebytov, the head of the capital’s regional police force, said bodies were abandoned in the streets or given temporary burials. He cited police data indicating 95% died from gunshot wounds.

‘Consequently, we understand that under the (Russian) occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,’ Mr Nebytov said.

More bodies are being found every day under rubble and in mass graves, he added, with the largest number – 35 – found in Bucha.

According to Mr Nebytov, utility workers gathered and buried bodies in the Kyiv suburb while it remained under Russian control. Russian troops, he added, had been ‘tracking down’ people who expressed strong pro-Ukrainian views.

President Zelensky accused Russian troops occupying parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south of terrorising civilians and hunting for anyone who served in Ukraine’s military or government.

‘The occupiers think this will make it easier for them to control this territory. But they are very wrong. They are fooling themselves,’ he said in his nightly video address.

‘Russia’s problem is that it is not accepted – and never will be accepted – by the entire Ukrainian people. Russia has lost Ukraine forever.’

More violence could be in store for Kyiv after Russian authorities accused Ukraine of wounding seven people and damaging about 100 residential buildings with airstrikes in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine. Authorities in another border region of Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling on Thursday.

‘The number and the scale of missile attacks on objects in Kyiv will be ramped up in response to the Kyiv nationalist regime committing any terrorist attacks or diversions on the Russian territory,’ Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

Russia used missiles to destroy a facility for the repair and production of missile systems in Kyiv. Ukrainian officials have not confirmed striking targets in Russia, and the reports could not be independently verified. However, Ukrainian officials said forces did strike a key Russian warship with missiles. 

A senior US defence official backed up the claim, anonymously saying the US now believes the Moskva was hit by at least one Neptune anti-ship missile and probably two.

The Moskva, named for the Russian capital, sank while being towed to port on Thursday after taking heavy damage.

Moscow did not acknowledge any attack, saying only that a fire had detonated ammunition on board. The loss of the ship represents an important victory for Ukraine and a symbolic defeat for Russia.

The sinking reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea and seemed to symbolise Moscow’s fortunes in an eight-week invasion widely seen as a historic blunder following the Russian retreat from the Kyiv region and much of northern Ukraine.

CIA chief says Putin’s ‘desperation’ raises nuclear risk

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Doomed Moskva Russia warship is ‘seen burning in satellite image’ after Ukraine missile strike ‘killed ALL 510 aboard’ Putin’s Black Sea flagship

Satellite images show the pride of Putin’s Black Sea Fleet burning while other vessels are scrambled to rescue those onboard before it sank after it was struck by Ukrainian missiles in an attack which Kyiv has claimed killed all 500 crew including its captain. 

Radar satellite imagery of the northern Black Sea on April 13 appears to pinpoint the Soviet-era Moskva warship, which Ukraine said was struck by two Neptune cruise missiles fired by one of its batteries near the port city of Odesa. Other vessels are also seen in attendance. 

As one of the largest ships lost in combat since the Second World War, the Moskva’s sinking is a huge blow to Russian military prestige. 

However, Ukrainian defence experts warned that the Moskva may have been carrying two nuclear warheads designed to be fitted to its P-1000 ‘carrier killer’ missiles when it went down. Any such arsenal onboard would likely have been tactical nuclear weapons with a very short range and limited fallout field, experts said. 

The attack happened when Ukrainian TB2 drones distracted her defensive capabilities, which then failed to track a pair of Neptune missiles fired from a coastal artillery battery. Ukraine claimed yesterday the warship ‘went down in a matter of minutes’ with all hands – around 500 sailors – including First Captain Anton Kuprin. 

Russian news agencies cited Moscow’s Defence Ministry on Thursday as admitting that the vessel sank in stormy seas after what it said was a fire and explosions involving ammunition stowed onboard.

The Kremlin had earlier tried to downplay the damage, and claimed that the Moskva was still afloat and was returning to port under its own steam. Moscow also announced that the crew had been evacuated onto other Black Sea Fleet vessels. 

Hours after Ukraine sank the Moskva, Putin took out his anger on losing the warship by ordering a missile strike on Kyiv.  

Radar satellite imagery of the Black Sea on April 13 appears to pinpoint the Moskva warship, which Ukraine said was struck by two Neptune cruise missiles fired by one of its batteries near the port city of Odesa. Other vessels are seen in attendance

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Radar satellite imagery of the Black Sea on April 13 appears to pinpoint the Moskva warship, which Ukraine said was struck by two Neptune cruise missiles fired by one of its batteries near the port city of Odesa. Other vessels are seen in attendance

The Moskva - pictured leaving port at Sevastopol for the last time on April 10 - may have been carrying two nuclear warheads when it sank after a fire and explosion on board, experts and analysts have warned

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The Moskva – pictured leaving port at Sevastopol for the last time on April 10 – may have been carrying two nuclear warheads when it sank after a fire and explosion on board, experts and analysts have warned

As one of the largest ships lost in combat since the Second World War, the Moskva's sinking is a huge blow to Russian prestige

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As one of the largest ships lost in combat since the Second World War, the Moskva’s sinking is a huge blow to Russian prestige

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Footage appears to show Moskva cruiser days before being sunk

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Moskva could have been carrying warheads to fit into the tip of its Moskva's P-1000 supersonic cruise missiles, which are designed to take out American aircraft carriers

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Moskva could have been carrying warheads to fit into the tip of its Moskva’s P-1000 supersonic cruise missiles, which are designed to take out American aircraft carriers

The flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet - the Soviet-era guided missile destroyer Moskva - has suffered heavy damage and may have sunk after Ukraine claimed to have shot it with two anti-ship cruise missiles

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The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet – the Soviet-era guided missile destroyer Moskva – has suffered heavy damage and may have sunk after Ukraine claimed to have shot it with two anti-ship cruise missiles 

The relatives of the doomed crew of the Moskva held an unofficial memorial. Pictured: A man lays flowers at an unofficial memorial for the sailors of the Russian Black Sea flagship in Sevastopol on April 15, 2022

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The relatives of the doomed crew of the Moskva held an unofficial memorial. Pictured: A man lays flowers at an unofficial memorial for the sailors of the Russian Black Sea flagship in Sevastopol on April 15, 2022

Russian Telegram accounts with links to the Wagner Group claim Bayraktar drones were used to distract the Moskva's radar systems before a coastal battery opened fire somewhere near Odesa, hitting the ship with two Neptune missiles

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Russian Telegram accounts with links to the Wagner Group claim Bayraktar drones were used to distract the Moskva’s radar systems before a coastal battery opened fire somewhere near Odesa, hitting the ship with two Neptune missiles

Relatives of Moskva warship hold unofficial memorial for crew members

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The Soviet-era 600-foot missile cruiser: Moskva

The Moskva is a 12,500 tonne Project 1164 Slava class guided missile cruiser that was first launched in 1979. 

She replaced the Kynda-class cruiser Admiral Golovko as the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. 

Although it is not a new ship, the impressive cruiser was named after Moscow and is armed with 16 fixed launchers for P-1000 anti-ship missiles and rail launchers for 40 Osa missiles.

The missile cruiser usually has a crew of over 500 and contains intricate vertical tubes for 64 S-300 air-defence missiles and an array of guns, making her fire power one of a kind.  

Despite Moskva’s impressive features, the ship was sunk when ammunition on board blew up, TASS news agency quoted the defence ministry as saying on Thursday. 

A Ukrainian official earlier said the Moskva had been hit by two anti-ship missiles but did not give any evidence.  

Russian news agencies said the Moskva was armed with 16 anti-ship ‘Vulkan’ cruise missiles with a range of at least 440 miles. Interfax did not give more details of the incident. 

In April 2021, the agency quoted a retired Russian admiral as saying ‘this is the most serious ship in the Black Sea’. 

Russian Kalibr long-range missiles streaked through the night sky towards the capital for the first time in two weeks. Rockets slammed into the factory which produced the two missiles that destroyed the warship, although the official Russian line is that the Moskva was damaged when a fire caused ammunition aboard to explode.

After the factory strike, Russia’s defence ministry warned: ‘The number and scale of missile strikes against targets in Kyiv will increase in response to any terrorist attacks or sabotage.’

Life in the Ukrainian capital had begun to return to some sort of normality since Russian forces withdrew two weeks ago. But further attacks will likely add to the death toll around Kyiv.

The region’s police chief said yesterday the bodies of 900 civilians had been found in outlying suburbs and towns after the Russia withdrawal.

The Kremlin has so far insisted its invasion is a ‘special military operation’ rather than a war. But in an escalatory statement yesterday, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: ‘If Ukraine continues its provocations, Russia will be force to declare war against Ukraine.’

In another response to the sinking of the Moskva, there were reports yesterday that the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Vice Admiral Igor Osipov, had been detained by Moscow.

Captain Kuprin, 44, led the first naval action of the war, ordering the Moskva to bombard Snake Island. Its 13 Ukrainian defenders refused to give up, saying: ‘Russian warship, go f*** yourself.’     

Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the Kyiv Interior Ministry, claimed that ‘the explosion was so strong that the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet sank in a matter of minutes’. He claimed to have heard this from sources in Sevastopol, the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

‘Apparently, as a result of the fire, the warheads of the large P-1000 cruise missile – Vulkan – detonated. And there were 16 of them on board the cruiser.’

As a result ‘all the crew of the cruiser Moskva died’. This included the ship’s captain, Anton Kuprin, Gerashchenko said.  

He claimed: ‘The leadership of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation have deliberately hidden the truth from relatives and friends of the crew members.’

His account contradicts other earlier versions, including that a Turkish vessel rescued more than 50. If Kyiv’s claim is correct, then the deaths of the sailor would add to the already huge death toll suffered by Moscow’s forces during Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. It is believed over 20,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the conflict.

Ukraine ‘hit Russian flagship’: Archive footage of Moskva in action

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April 10: The Moskva (pictured last week near the port of Sevastopol) has been helping coordinate Russian naval operation in the Black Sea, which has seen ships set up a distant blockade of Ukrainian ports and open fire on cities with cruise missiles

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April 10: The Moskva (pictured last week near the port of Sevastopol) has been helping coordinate Russian naval operation in the Black Sea, which has seen ships set up a distant blockade of Ukrainian ports and open fire on cities with cruise missiles

April 7: The Moskva is pictured in Sevastopol, occupied Crimea, which is the home port of Russia's Black Sea fleet. The Soviet-era ship leads the fleet, and is equipped with anti-ship, anti-air and anti-submarine missiles

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April 7: The Moskva is pictured in Sevastopol, occupied Crimea, which is the home port of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. The Soviet-era ship leads the fleet, and is equipped with anti-ship, anti-air and anti-submarine missiles

Ukraine claims the Moskva was struck by two Neptune cruise missiles fired from a secret location somewhere near Odesa (pictured, a test-fire of the Neptune missile takes place in 2019)

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Ukraine claims the Moskva was struck by two Neptune cruise missiles fired from a secret location somewhere near Odesa (pictured, a test-fire of the Neptune missile takes place in 2019)

Ukrainian post told Russian warship to “go f**k yourself”

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Meanwhile, Mykhailo Samus, director of a Lviv-based military think-tank; Andriy Klymenko, editor of Black Sea News; and Ukrainian newspaper Defence Express all warned that the Moskva could have been carrying two nuclear warheads designed to be fitted to its P-1000 ‘carrier killer’ missiles.

If true, the loss of the warheads into the Black Sea could spark a ‘Broken Arrow’ incident – American military slang for potentially lethal accidents involving nuclear weapons.

‘On board the Moskva could be nuclear warheads – two units,’ Samus said, while Klymenko called on other Black Sea nations – Turkey, Romania, Georgia, and Bulgaria – to insist on an explanation. ‘Where are these warheads? Where were they when the ammunition exploded,’ he asked.

Meanwhile Ilya Ponomarev, a politician exiled from Russia for opposing Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, said just 58 of the 510-strong crew have since been accounted for – raising the prospect that 452 men went down with the ship in what would be a bitter loss for Putin’s already beleaguered army.

Biggest sea combat losses since WW2: The sinking of the Belgrano 

The sinking of the Moskva, if confirmed, would mark one of the largest ships lost in naval combat since the end of the Second World War.

For decades, that ignominious title had been held by the ARA General Belgrano which was sunk by British forces during the Falklands War.

The 608ft vessel – originally built by and serving in the US Navy before being sold to Argentina – sank on May 2 after being struck by two torpedoes fired by nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror.

The first torpedo struck near the bow of the ship, blowing it off, while the second struck towards the rear -outside an area protected by armour plating.

Punching through the side of the ship, the torpedo exploded in the rear machine room – tearing through nearby crew areas and blasting a 65ft hole in the deck. 

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The blast also took out much of the ship’s electronics and radio systems, meaning it was unable to pump out water that was now rushing into the vessel or put out a distress call.

Just 20 minutes after the strike, captain Hector Bonzo gave the order to abandon ship. Lifeboats were launched with 772 men rescued from the water over the subsequent days.

The attack killed 321 members of the Belgrano’s crew and two civilians who happened to be on board – accounting for around half of Argentina’s casualties during the entire conflict.

Sinking the Belgrano provoked controversy, because it was attacked outside a 200-nautical mile exclusion zone declared by the British who said any ships inside the zone risked being attacked without warning.

Permission to attack the vessel was given by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after a request by the Navy, amid warnings the ship posed a threat. 

Britain had separately warned that vessels outside the zone could be targeted if they threatened its forces.

Speaking decades after the war ended, Captain Bonzo said he did not consider the sinking of the Belgrano to be illegal. ‘It was an act of war,’ he said. 

The figure, while unconfirmed, is consistent with losses suffered on exploding warships. During the Russian Navy’s infamous defeat at the Battle of Tsushima against Japan, an explosion on board the Borodino – slightly smaller than the Moskva – saw all-but one of her 855 crew killed.

Russia claims all the Moskva’s sailors were ‘successfully evacuated’ but video taken in Sevastopol overnight shows dozens of cars purportedly belonging to the sailors still parked in the port – suggesting their owners had not returned to collect them.

Rumours have also begun circulating in Ukrainian media that Admiral Igor Osipov – the commander of Russia’s Black Sea fleet which the Moskva led – has been arrested in what would be the latest in a string of detentions linked to the bungled invasion.

Leonid Nevzlin, a Russian-Israeli businessman who fled the country in 2003 after being targeted by Putin, said yesterday that 20 Russian generals have been arrested over the military’s failings along with 150 FSB officers for providing false information about Ukraine’s defences.

He also claimed that Sergey Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister and a long-term Putin ally, has suffered a massive heart attack and is in intensive care after an apparent assassination attempt.

Shoigu, 66, is thought to have fallen out with Putin in mid-March over the bungled invasion and largely stopped making public appearances. He has featured in video calls with Putin since but has not spoken, amid suspicion the Kremlin could be re-using old footage to give the impression he is alive and well.

The Moskva got into trouble overnight Wednesday as it sailed around 60 miles off the coast of Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port and main naval base. The Ukrainian military said it was struck with two Neptune cruise missiles fired by a coastal battery, which struck the port side of the vessel.

Russian military sources said the ship had rolled on to its side and caught fire after the blast, while US intelligence sources said the vessel suffered a ‘large’ explosion that left it heavily damaged before it sank.

Moscow has said only that the vessel suffered a fire and blast before its navy attempted to tow the ship back to Sevastopol, but during the operation it sank in rough seas. The exact location of the wreck is unknown.

The loss of the Moskva – the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet that was told to ‘go f*** yourself’ by Ukrainian troops as it demanded their surrender on Snake Island – is a huge propaganda win for Kyiv as well as another embarrassing loss for Putin’s beleaguered army.

As revenge for the sinking, the Russian military launched a series of cruise missile strikes on Ukraine overnight Thursday – including several rockets which it said struck and destroyed a factory near Kyiv that made the weapons used against Moskva.

Russia’s defence ministry warned early Friday that it will step up attacks on Kyiv in the coming days, in response to Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory.

A village in Russia’s border region with Belarus, which houses a military base, was struck Thursday – coming after explosions at an ammo dump and oil facility in Belgorod, an along a nearby train line.

Separately, Russia told the US to stop sending weapons to Ukraine, warning of ‘unpredictable consequences’ if it continues to do do.

The warning was delivered in the form of an official diplomatic note, which was seen by the Washington Post.

It said that American and NATO shipments of the ‘most sensitive’ weapons were ‘adding fuel’ to the conflict, which is now nearing its second month.

The two-page note was delivered after Biden had agreed to a new $800million delivery of military aid to Ukraine, including heavy artillery and shells, helicopters and armoured personnel carriers.

‘What the Russians are telling us privately is precisely what we’ve been telling the world publicly – that the massive amount of assistance that we’ve been providing our Ukrainian partners is proving extraordinarily effective,’ a senior US official said about the note.

Aside from providing Ukraine with a propaganda victory, Moskva’s sinking also has practical implications for Russia. As flagship, the vessel was likely tasked with coordinating the movements of other ships in the Black Sea which may cause further confusion among Russia’s already-strained command structure.

Its role was also to provide cover for Russia’s other ships using its anti-air missiles while they launched cruise missiles attacks against cities and military sites. Its loss will make them more-vulnerable to Ukrainian strikes, including by fast jets or drones.

Now entering its eighth week, Russia’s invasion has stalled because of resistance from Ukrainian fighters bolstered by weapons and other aid sent by Western nations. The news of the flagship’s damage overshadowed Russian claims of advances in the southern port city of Mariupol, where they have been battling the Ukrainians since the early days of the invasion in some of the heaviest fighting of the war – at a horrific cost to civilians.