The Pentagon said the sunken Russian warship Moskva was hit by two Ukrainian Neptune missiles.
A senior US defense official confirmed on Friday that Ukrainian forces managed to sink the ship after Russia claimed the ship caught fire, while Ukraine said it attacked the vessel in the Black Sea, The Washington Post reported.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said it would step up attacks on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in retaliation for attacks on its own assets. Explosions were reported outside kyiv on Friday – Russian forces said in a statement they attacked an arms factory in a suburb.
Russia is also preparing for new attacks in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass. Officials say it could be the bloodiest fight yet as the battle moves to more open fields after seven weeks of warfare.
Russia appears to be on the verge of capturing Mariupol, the strategically important port city, after weeks of indiscriminate shelling and civilian suffering. Analysts also said Russia is likely to step up its assault on southeastern Ukraine after major setbacks.
Tensions are rising as Ukraine has taken over a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Sweden alongside Finland moves closer to possible NATO membership.
The Moskva missile cruiser, named for the Russian capital, was launched during the Cold War, served in conflicts in Georgia, Syria and Ukraine and helped conduct scientific research in peacetime with the United States.
The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet sank in those waters off Ukraine while being towed to port after a fire on board, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said.
It was an inglorious demise for the ship originally christened the Slava, or “glory.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said the heavily damaged Moskva sank in a storm on Thursday after being engulfed in fire. He previously said the fire set off some of his guns and forced the crew to evacuate. He denied there was an attack by Ukraine on the vessel, which would normally have around 500 sailors on board.
Maksym Marchenko, the governor of the Odessa region, said Ukraine hit the ship Wednesday night with two Neptune missiles and caused “serious damage”.
The Moskva could carry 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its loss will significantly reduce Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea.
Its sinking represents a blow to Russian prestige seven weeks after the start of a war that is already widely considered a historical mistake.
The warship was launched as Slava from a shipyard in Mykolaiv in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in July 1979, according to open-source intelligence firm Janes.
Commissioned in late December 1982, it was 186 meters (611.5 ft) long. It was designed to carry a crew of 476 with an additional 62 officers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report