KHARKIV, Ukraine—Ukraine on Monday said it sank two Russian Naval vessels in the Black Sea with drone strikes, as explosions rang out once again in Russia’s border region of Belgorod and heavy fighting continued in easternUkraine.
Ukraine released video footage of what it said were Bayraktar TB-2 armed drones hitting the two Raptor-class patrol boats at 4.51 am Monday near Snake Island, a Ukrainian island that Russian forces captured on the first day of the war on Feb. 24. Both boats appeared to be hit, but it wasn’t clear whether they had sunk.
Ukraine’s military said in recent days that it carried out several airstrikes on the strategic island, located 22 miles off the Ukrainian coast southwest of Odessa, destroying the air-defense system and other heavy weapons of the Russian military unit that occupies it. The two boats in the area, each capable of carrying 20 Marines in addition to three crew members, were likely to be carrying reinforcements and resupplies.
The island has heavy symbolic importance for Ukraine because its defenders refused to surrender—according to the Ukrainian version of events that has grown into a national legend—and radioed “Russian warship go screw yourself” when the Russian Black Sea flagship, missile cruiser Moskva, approached with an ultimatum on Feb. 24.
In Poland meanwhile, House Speaker
said the US and its European allies would continue to work on strengthening the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after she and a delegation of US lawmakers met Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Mrs. Pelosi, who had previously traveled to Ukraine, said the US was grateful for Poland opening its doors to millions of refugees from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion of the country in late February.
“Our members discussed our countries’ continued commitment to Ukraine, particularly as the Congress prepares to transform President Biden’s new request for additional security, economic and humanitarian assistance into legislation,” Mrs. Pelosi said in a statement.
Moskva itself was sunk by a Ukrainian missile strike on April 14, with dozens of sailors still listed as missing by Russian authorities. Since the war began, Ukraine has also sunk a Russian landing ship, Saratovand damaged at least another in a missile strike on the Russian-occupied port of Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov.
Taking the fight to the enemy by putting pressure on Russian supply lines inside Russia itself seems to have become a key part of Ukraine’s effort to repel the Russian offensive. Russian forces on Monday continued pressing into eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, with heavy fighting north of the town of Slovyansk.
Ukrainian officials said that in recent days they carried out a series of strikes on Russian forward bases in the Izyum area north of Slovyansk, killing senior commanders including a general. While this claim couldn’t be independently confirmed, drone footage released by Ukrainian volunteers working with the military on Monday showed a series of precision strikes on a large grouping of Russian armor south of Izyum.
In Russia’s Belgorod region, the staging ground for Russian attacks on Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv and the Donbas, Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov posted on Telegram that he woke up early on Monday because of two loud explosions that rocked the city.
Mr. Gladkov later posted that the explosions had been caused by Russian aircraft carrying a combat mission and that the safety of residents was never at threat.
Videos posted by Belgorod residents to social media overnight appeared to show aircraft dropping flares in the night sky while others featured the sound of loud explosions or sonic booms.
Incidents have repeatedly occurred 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 that serve as the logistics bases for Russian forces attacking Ukraine.
On Sunday, Mr. Gladkov said a fire had broken out at a Defense Ministry facility in the region. One person had been wounded and seven houses damaged in the incident, he said. Footage posted by residents from the area showed thick plumes of smoke rising high into the sky, and the sound of what appeared to be secondary explosions from ammunition blowing up.
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 describing the explosions in Russian border regions as “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. “Specialists from law-enforcement agencies will investigate in more detail,” he said on Telegram, adding that there were no casualties.
The Russian Defense Ministry didn’t immediately comment on the incident. Last month, Moscow warned that it would strike “decision-making centers” in Kyiv if attacks on Russian territory continued.
In recent days, two simultaneous fires erupted at an oil depot and a military fuel facility in the Russian city of Bryansk, also close to the Ukraine border. Before that, fuel depots exploded in Belgorod, as a result of 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 terrorist threat alert, which allows for military and police checkpoints to be established throughout the region and stepped-up patrols by security personnel, among other safety measures.
The US, fellow NATO members and other Western nations have stepped up their support for Ukraine by providing it with heavy weaponry, training and intelligence. In response, Russian President
and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have warned Moscow could hit back.
Some Western officials have interpreted Russia’s decision to stop natural gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria last week as the biggest such retribution so far and warned that more countries that rely on Russian energy supplies could be targeted soon.
European Union energy ministers are meeting on Monday to discuss the fallout from that decision. EU members are scrambling to reduce their dependence on Russian gas imports by striking new contracts with alternative suppliers and taking measures 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 last week’s reports about Germany’s change of mind.
New oil supply contracts that have dramatically reduced Germany’s reliance on Russian oil meant the country was now ready to withstand such an embargo, Ms. Baerbock told the ARD public-sector broadcaster late on Sunday.
Only 12% of Germany’s oil imports currently come from Russia, down from 35% before the war, according to the government’s latest assessment. Germany, the world’s biggest importer of Russian gas, draws about a third of its gas imports from Russia, down from 55% before the war, but the government has said it would remain dependent on Russian imports until 2024.
Later on Monday, Ukrainian authorities were expected to welcome civilians evacuated at the weekend from the last Ukrainian resistance stronghold in Mariupol, the port city on the Azov Sea that has been under siege 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 underneath the city’s destroyed Azovstal steel plant were exiting under the supervision of the United Nations and would be taken to the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhya. He said more civilians would be evacuated.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said later on Sunday that 80 civilians had been “rescued from the territory” through a humanitarian corridor during a temporary cease-fire. The civilians were taken to the village of Bezimenne in the Russian-held Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine and given accommodation, food and medical assistance, the ministry said. Evacuees who wanted to go to areas controlled by the government of Kyiv were transferred to representatives of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Defense Ministry said.
Vladimir Legoyda, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, wrote on his Telegram channel that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, leader of the church, was involved in organizing the exit of civilians.
Mr. Legoyda said the safe exit of the civilians was “a very important result of the negotiations undertaken with the participation of international organizations.”
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