Kyiv, April 15: The flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet has sunk after what Kyiv said was a Ukrainian missile strike, dealing one of the heaviest blows yet to Moscow's war effort and providing a powerful symbol of Kyiv's resistance against a better-armed foe.
Kyiv says it hit the cruiser Moskva with missiles fired from the coast. Russia said the ship sank while being towed in stormy seas after a fire caused by an explosion of ammunition. Moscow said more than 500 sailors had been evacuated. There was no independent confirmation of the fate of the crew.
Although Russia did not confirm that Ukrainian missiles had hit the ship, early on Friday it struck what it described as a factory in Kyiv that made and repaired anti-ship missiles, in apparent retaliation.
The Moskva was by far Russia's largest vessel in the Black Sea fleet, equipped with guided missiles to shoot down planes and attack the shore, and radar to provide air defence cover for the fleet.
Hours before Kyiv said it had struck the ship, it released a postage stamp with a picture of a soldier making an obscene gesture towards it, commemorating the war's first day when the ship ordered Ukrainian defenders to surrender an island outpost, and they radioed back "Russian warship, go fuck yourself".
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy paid homage to "those who showed that Russian ships can go -- only down to the bottom".
Meanwhile, Kyiv was hit on Friday by some of the most powerful explosions heard since Russian forces withdrew from the area two weeks ago. Moscow said it had struck a plant that made and repaired Ukrainian missiles, including anti-ship missiles.
"The number and scale of missile strikes on targets in Kyiv will increase in response to any terrorist attacks or acts of sabotage on Russian territory committed by the Kyiv nationalist regime," the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Kirill Kyrylo, 38, a worker at a car repair shop, said he had seen three blasts hit an industrial building across the street, causing a blaze that was later put out by firefighters.
"The building was on fire and I had to hide behind my car," he said, pointing out the shattered glass of the repair shop and bits of metal that had flown over from the burning building.
Russia's defence ministry also said it had captured the Ilyich steel works in Mariupol, the besieged eastern port that has seen the war's heaviest fighting and worst humanitarian catastrophe. The report could not be confirmed. Ukrainian defenders are mainly believed to be holding out in Azovstal, another huge steel works.
-PTC News with inputs from social media