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Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed on Thursday reports that a Russian warship has been badly damaged.
“We cannot confirm the Ukrainian reports that it was hit by a missile, but we are also not in a position to refute that, that it could have been a Ukrainian missile which struck the ship,” said Kirby at the Pentagon.
Watch Kirby’s remarks in the player above.
“We just don’t have perfect visibility on exactly what happened. We do believe that there was a significant explosion on this cruiser, the Moskva of a Slava class of cruisers in the Russian Navy.”
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Ukrainian officials say their forces hit the vessel with missiles, while Russia acknowledged a fire aboard the Moskva but no attack.
The warship was 60 to 65 nautical miles south of Odesa when the fire ignited, and the vessel was still battling flames hours later while heading east, according to a Pentagon official.
The loss of the ship would be a major military setback and a devastating symbolic defeat for Moscow as its troops regroup for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine after retreating from much of the north, including the capital.
Russia said the fire aboard the ship, which would typically have 500 sailors on board, forced the entire crew to evacuate.
It later said the blaze had been contained and the ship would be towed to port with its guided missile launchers intact.
The ship can carry 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its removal from combat would greatly reduce Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea.
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