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The sinking of Russian guided-missile cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea comes days after Ukraine issued a stamp immortalizing the famous exchange on Snake Island between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
A Ukrainian presidential adviser confirmed on Thursday the Moskva was one of the vessels involved in the exchange in February.
The stamp: Ukrposhta, Ukraine's postal service, announced on Tuesday it had issued a postage stamp with the slogan. It shows a Ukrainian solider standing defiant, facing down a Russian warship in open water.
Roman Hrybov — the Ukrainian soldier who uttered the phrase — was invited to the ceremony unveiling the stamp, the service said in a statement.
Some context: It was initially believed the Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a subsequent attack, but were instead forced to surrender "due to the lack of ammunition," according to the Ukrainian navy. Hrybov was later released as part of a prisoner exchange.
The phrase has become a popular Ukrainian slogan during the invasion and used as a symbol of defiance.
"There would be neither postage stamp nor such strong resistance as exemplified by soldiers from Zmiinyi Island (Snake Island) without him," the statement read.
The warship: Conflicting accounts have emerged over the sinking of the warship, which was reported Thursday by Russian state news agency TASS.
Ukraine's Operational Command South claimed Thursday that the Moskva had begun to sink after it was hit by Neptune anti-ship missiles.
Russia claimed a fire broke out, causing munitions aboard to explode, inflicting serious damage to the vessel and forcing its crew to be evacuated.
CNN has not been able to independently verify what caused the damage to the ship.
Read more about the sinking:
CNN's Olga Voitovych and Brad Lendon contributed to this post.
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan told CNN it may be challenging to guarantee that justice will be served after the war, given that Russia has withdrawn its signature from the ICC statute.
"We can't be naive about things. We need to be realistic," Khan said. "But first things first, collect the evidence, preserve it, analyze it, and make determinations based on what it shows. And those determinations can be checked by judges."
Visit to Bucha: Khan said he visited the Ukrainian towns of Bucha and Borodyanka this week, where mass graves of murdered civilians were discovered in early April following the Russian forces' withdrawal from northern Ukraine.
“Ukraine is a crime scene," Khan said, according to a tweet by the ICC. "We’re here because we have reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC are being committed. We have to pierce the fog of war to get to the truth."
Need for unity: Khan said he believed the mission of investigating war crimes affects not just Ukraine but the entire world, and that "a common front needs to be built."
"We wait for crimes in different parts of the world and say never again. And we see it again, time and time again. It should put us to shame. So we have to decide when we will react based on our shared humanity and I think this is a moment that should wake everybody up," Khan said.
"Many other instances should have but certainly, this is the moment where we should consolidate, wake up, and fight for something that's very important, which is legality." he added.
The UN humanitarian chief called on all parties Thursday to provide safe passage of civilians out of the besieged port city of Mariupol in the southeast of Ukrainian following the announcement that two aid workers and their family members were killed.
“I am deeply saddened by the deaths of at least two aid workers who were killed, together with five of their relatives, during an attack that hit the office of the non-governmental organization Caritas in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, on March 15. The events took place nearly one month ago but the information has become available only now,” said Martin Griffiths, under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, in a statement.
Griffiths went on to “appeal for the parties to the conflict to urgently agree on clear arrangements for the safe passage of civilians out of areas where their lives are at risk, as well as the safe, rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance into areas where civilians are facing catastrophic levels of need, especially in areas that have been or remain besieged.”
On Tuesday, the head of Caritas Internationalis expressed shock and horror upon learning about the deaths of two Caritas Ukraine Mariupol female staffers.
“We join in grief and solidarity with the suffering of the families and our colleagues of Caritas Ukraine who are living a tragedy,” Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Aloysius John said in a statement.
John added that the Caritas Ukraine national office is still investigating the incident, adding that it probably took place on March 15 when “a tank fired shots at the building of the Caritas center in Mariupol, killing two staff members and five of their relatives. At this point of time, due to the absence of communication with the city of Mariupol as well as the lack of access to the premises of the Caritas center, our Caritas Ukraine national office is still collecting information to determine what happened. It is presumed the two Caritas staff members, together with their families, took refuge in the center during the time of the shelling attack.”
CNN has not been able to independently confirm last month’s incident.
As protesters projected a Ukrainian flag onto the Russian Embassy in Washington Wednesday, personnel at the embassy attempted to use a spotlight to blot it out, video shows.
It all began at sundown, Benjamin Wittes, one of the organizers of the protest told CNN. Wittes is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, and he along with ten other people decided to organize the protest at the Russian Embassy.
"We're not going to storm the gates [of the embassy], but we want to get in there somehow," Wittes said. "And light lets you do that."
He and the others gathered about 15 projector lights and four generators — in two locations — and flipped them on as night fell to project a Ukrainian flag on the embassy. Wittes says they brought so many lights because they thought they'd need them to make sure it shined clearly on the embassy, which was would be roughly 300 feet away from their set up sites.
But when they did turn on the lights, Wittes says staff at the Russian embassy were ready, and flipped on a floodlight to blot out the flag.
That's when the game of "cat and mouse" began.
The protesters would move one of the flags over to one spot on the embassy, and the floodlight would follow. It continued on for hours, Wittes said. Until, around 1:30 a.m., the embassy staff gave up and stopped trying to blot out the Ukrainian flag.
That, Wittes said, was proof that the protest went above and beyond their expectations.
"The fact that they felt compelled to respond the way that they did over many hours by the way," he said. "They saw the protest as the way that we meant it. To not allow them to the space of their own embassy."
Watch the moment:
Britain has sanctioned two “key Russian oligarchs” connected to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, freezing up to $13 billion of assets linked to Eugene Tenenbaum and David Davidovich in “the largest asset freeze action in UK history,” the Foreign Office said in a statement on Thursday.
Tenenbaum is one of Abramovich’s closest associates and was previously a top executive at Sibneft, the Russian oil company sold by Abramovich in 2006, according to Chelsea Football Club, where he is a director. The Foreign Office said he took over an investment company with ties to Abramovich on Feb. 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine.
The UK has also put a travel ban on Davidovich, another “longstanding” business associate of Abramovich, according to the Foreign Office.
“Davidovich has been described by Forbes as ‘Abramovich’s much lower profile right hand man,’ and took over Evrington Investments from Tenenbaum in March 2022,” it added.
The British government said the sanctions were coordinated with Jersey authorities, who CNN reported earlier this week froze more than $7 billion dollars’ worth of assets “suspected to be connected” to Abramovich.
“We are tightening the ratchet on Putin’s war machine and targeting the circle of people closest to the Kremlin. We will keep going with sanctions until Putin fails in Ukraine. Nothing and no one is off the table,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was quoted saying in the statement.
Ukraine’s claim that it conducted a missile strike that sank the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet is believed to be credible, two sources familiar with US and western intelligence told CNN, although officials as yet have no definitive proof.
The US believes with “medium confidence” that Ukraine’s version of events — which Moscow disputes — is accurate, according one source familiar with the latest intelligence.
Still, even though US and western officials have no reason to distrust Ukraine in this instance, both sources cautioned that the US has not yet made an independent attribution.
“We’re not in a position to officially confirm independently what exactly led to the ship’s now sinking,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday. “But we’re also not in any position to refute the Ukrainian side of this. It’s certainly plausible and possible that they did in fact hit this with a Neptune missile or maybe more.”
The missile cruiser, the Moskva, sank on Thursday after an explosion the day before “seriously damaged” the ship near the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, Russia said Thursday.
The governor of Odessa has claimed that the ship was hit by a Ukrainian anti-ship missile, while Russia has claimed that the damage was caused by an on-board fire that detonated on-board ammunition.
Outside analysts have largely treated Ukraine’s version of events as the more credible possibility, but American officials have so far declined to publicly attribute the ship’s destruction to a missile strike.
A number of residential areas of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, have come under shelling, said Oleh Syniehubov, the head of Ukraine's Kharkiv region military administration, on Thursday.
"These are exclusively peaceful areas where there is no military infrastructure," he said in remarks on national television. "And so the enemy is trying to destabilize our population, in fact inflicting such blows from which civilians alone are actually suffering."
The heaviest point in the region, Syniehubov said, was in the direction of Izium direction, from which Ukrainian officials say Russian forces are trying to advance toward the eastern Donbas.
"Active hostilities are taking place, and our armed forces are holding back the enemy so that they will not be able to transport their equipment to Luhansk and Donetsk regions," he said.
Syniehubov said authorities were trying to conduct an "organized evacuation" of Barvinkove and Lozova, two towns in the south of Kharkiv region.
I have seen a lot of awful things in my career, but some of the things we were confronted with on the outskirts of Kyiv after Russian troops were beaten back by Ukrainian forces have been among the most harrowing.
In the suburb of Bucha we were among the first to reach a mass grave that residents dug while the place was under Russian occupation, because so many residents had been killed and longer burial ceremonies would have been too dangerous amid the shooting and shelling.
We saw half-buried bodies, legs and arms sticking out of the earth. We met one man who was sure his little brother was buried here; he broke down and could not stop crying. The neighbor who comforted him was also in tears.
These moments of heartbreak are difficult to witness — they make you want to cry as well.
Also in Bucha, we were led into a basement where five bodies had been found — the Ukrainians say the men had been executed by Russian troops. Some had their hands tied and gunshot wounds to the head or the heart.
You could still see the horror on their faces. It seemed like the dead wanted the truth of their violent death to be uncovered.
No matter how many bodies you see, you never forget a single one.
As Ukrainians reclaim areas previously occupied by invading Russian troops, evidence of the horrors of recent weeks is emerging from the rubble of shattered villages and towns. New victims are discovered on a daily basis. And those lucky enough to have survived the
ordeal tell harrowing tales of kidnappings, rapes and torture.
Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said Monday that her office is investigating 5,800 cases of alleged Russian war crimes, with “more and more” proceedings opening every day.
Russia has denied allegations of war crimes and claims its forces do not target civilians. But CNN journalists on the ground in Ukraine have seen firsthand evidence of atrocities at multiple locations across the country.
Read more about what CNN journalists have witnessed in Ukraine here.