Note: This post contains graphic imagery.
Conflicting reports have emerged from Russian and Ukrainian officials on why a flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, sank on Thursday.
Meanwhile, diplomatic relations between Russia and Japan continue to deteriorate amid tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Here are the latest developments:
- Moskva sinking: After a key Russian warship, the Moskva, sank off the coast of Ukraine in the Black Sea on Thursday, opposing reports emerged about the cause. Russia's Defense Ministry said a fire of unknown origin detonated the ship's stored ammunition and caused explosions, which resulted in structural damage. The vessel then sank as it was being towed amid rough seas, the Russians said. However, Ukraine said it hit the Moskva with anti-ship cruise missiles and that these sparked the fire that detonated the ammunition. Either way, the fall of the Moskva could knock Russian morale -- considering the ship was one of its most visible assets in the Ukraine war.
- Diplomatic relations falter: Japan and Russia have been increasingly at odds since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with the latter withdrawing from peace treaty talks in Japan last month, and freezing joint economic projects because of sanctions imposed by Tokyo over the invasion. In what could be another blow to diplomatic relations between the two countries, Tokyo “conveyed its concerns” to Moscow over cruise missile tests conducted by Russia in the Sea of Japan, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said in a news conference on Friday.
- CNN reporters recount witnessing atrocities in Ukraine: Indiscriminate killings of civilians attempting to flee the violence. Victims found with their hands tied behind their backs. An attack on a maternity hospital, a theater turned shelter bombed. The list of atrocities and apparent war crimes allegedly committed by Russian troops in Ukraine gets longer by the 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.
- Buildup in the east: Russian troops continue to prepare for an offensive operation in the east, training additional units and gathering aviation power, according to Ukraine's military. The first Russian troops that withdrew from northern Ukraine earlier this month have begun appearing in the northern Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, a senior US defense official said Thursday. Meanwhile, civilians are being evacuated from the region, which has seen weeks of shelling and fighting break out in towns.
- Civilians fight on the front lines: A Ukrainian pastor and father of two, Oleg Magdych, is now serving as a volunteer battalion commander for 120 soldiers ranging in ages from 18 to their mid-70s. He shared with CNN that they are preparing for deployment to southern Ukraine after fighting on the front lines north of Kyiv, adding that most of the soldiers he's with were civilians before the war. “Eighty per cent of my units are people that have never held a gun in their hands in their lives. They're ordinary truck drivers, lawyers, you name it," Magdych said.